Who Was the First Slave Owner in America and Who Sued to Prevent Indentured Servants From Gaining their Freedom?
Ah.... the dear snowflakes that are flailing around trying to find something to give them credibility and a position of superiority over the rest of us. This story came out of a story about a university student body deciding that all black people ought to receive free tuition and room and board at their university as reparations for slavery. Strange story, actually not, but down in the comment section was a mention of one Anthony Johnson, billed as one of the first slave owners in the American colonies and as the person who first made it legal to keep people slaves rather than release them after they had fulfilled their indentured service contract.
The fact is that a huge amount of the people that landed on American shores was an indentured servant who signed away their freedom in return for passage over to America. After seven years in most cases, the person was released from service with their debt paid. That is until Johnson filed a lawsuit and a court set precedent that not all indentured servants are to be released and become slaves instead.
Johnson was running around in Angola doing his business when he was captured by an enemy tribe and sold to Arab slave traders which is how the vast majority of slaves were caught and sold. In 1621 Johnson arrived in America as the indentured servant of a merchant that worked for the Virginia Company. His name then was Antonio with no last name, he later took the name of Anthony Johnson. He was soon sold to a white planter named Bennet as an indentured servant and was put to work on a tobacco farm. He worked for fourteen years to pay off his contract and was released as were the vast majority of other indentured servants be they black or white. The policy was also to gift the former servant small amounts of land and equipment, much the same as the formal apprenticeships gave tools and money at the end of the service period.
Once released along with a fellow black named Mary that he had married years earlier, Antonio changed his name to Anthony Johnson and settled down on a plot of farmland he had received from his indentured service labor. He later increased his holdings to 250 acres after buying the contracts of other indentured servants. Anthony was litigious, he filed a suit asking for tax relief by exempting taxes levied upon his wife and daughter and he won the case, the first time an African woman was exempted from the tax as the white women were exempted from taxation.
Anthony Johnson had come over as an indentured servant and was released as a free negro after serving his contract. He was doing well, 250 acres of land and five indentured servants including one John Casor, a black indentured servant bought by Johnson in the early 1640's. Thirteen years later Casor complained that his service term had expired but he was being held illegally and a neighbor intervened and convinced Johnson to release Casor. But then Casor promptly sold himself into indentured service to this same neighbor which Johnson was offended to a great extent. Johnson sued for the return of Casor and lost, then appealed and won and Casor was returned to Johnson as his property.
This was the first time in colonial history where an indentured servant was declared a lifetime slave without a corresponding crime being committed by the servant. Other indentured servants had been declared slaves for crimes for for escaping his master but it was usually Africans that received the stiffest penalty.
Later in the mid 1660's courts began ruling that children born to women received their status in the community, rather than the English practice of delivering the status of the father to the child. Born of a slave woman meant you were a slave for life. The colonies actually accelerated the practice of slavery by giving a slave owner 50 acres of land for every new slave he imported.
A strange story indeed, that a black colonist, a former captured slave, actually paved the way for the continued enslavement of imported indentured servants. A merchant could pay six pounds cash for the passage of a purchased slave, receive fifty acres of land upon their arrival, and profit from seven years or more of hard work from the servant before setting them free. No doubt racism played a huge part as the Africans were very different from the usual white Europeans that indentured themselves and people in general don't like diversity regardless of the current way of thinking.