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(l) Dutch ship trades first blacks for food at Jamestown.  (r) Text of court document depicted above:  By virtue of a writt granted to me from [names listed here, which are illegible] John Stringer Escheator for the countys of Northhampton and Accomack to enquire what lands Anthonio Johnson late of Accomack County either in his life tyme. . . a jury of free. . . in the said Accomack County to enquire. . . doth declare that the said Anthony Johnson lately deceased in his life tyme was seized of fifty acres of land now in the possession of Rich. Johnson in the County of Accomack aforesaid and further that the said Anthony Johnson was a negro and by consequence an alien and for that cause the said land doth escheat to this . . .     [From collections at the Library of Congress.]



Having satisfactorily fulfilled his contracted obligations in Jamestown, Anthony Johnson became the most prominent of the first "20. and odd Negroes" to arrive as an indentured servant in the American colonies, less for obtaining a degree of freedom and wealth inconceivable for an African at the time, than for pursuing lifetime ownership of one of his own African servants, despite the servant's credible contention that he had fulfilled his obligations to his master, and for a period longer than his master, himself, had served in a similar type of indentured servitude over four decades earlier.  The landmark case was not easy for the fearful Johnson, who most likely would have lost before the General Court had the servant, discovered in the service of one of Johnson's neighbors, not been ruled to be one of the worst types of criminals at the time:  a runaway [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]



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Historians disagree.  Either Johnson was captured by enemy tribes from countries neighboring his native Angola, sold to Arab slave traders and shipped to the Virginia Colony aboard the Dutch slave ship James [6], or he was one of hundreds of Angolans fleeing persecution and leaving behind his country's devastating living conditions aboard the Portuguese slave ship São João Bautista enroute to Vera Cruz, New Spain (present-day Mexico), having been stolen from the ship off the coast of Campeche (also in present-day Mexico) by "English corsairs," or privateers, one of which was the White Lion. [7

In either scenario, after landing at Cape Comfort in Virginia in August 1619, [8, 9] "Antonio [margin-noted as a "Negro"), went to work for Edward Bennett on his tobacco plantation, "Bennett's Welcome," to serve out a 4-year term of indenture; although it could have been cut short, because he nearly lost his life in the Indian Massacre of 1622.


Virginia's Powhatan Indians, threatened by the encroachments of tobacco planters, staged a carefully planned attack that took place on Good Friday.  By the middle of the day, over three hundred and fifty colonists were dead.  On the plantation where Anthony worked, fifty-two had been killed.  Only Anthony and four other men survived.

That same year, "Mary (also margin-noted as a "Negro"), arrived at Jamestown, many believe, as the only woman to work on the plantation, having arrived in the Colony aboard the ship Margaret and John, [10] during a time, when Virginia was populated almost exclusively by men.   Anthony and Mary had four children.

Emerging from servitude as "free Negroes" in 1623/1625 [11,12], they acquired their own land.   During the 1640s they lived along Pungoteague Creek in Northampton County on the Eastern Shore, growing tobacco and raising livestock. By the 1650s, their estate had grown to 250 acres, which had been granted as "headrights" (at 50 acres per head) for having, himself, sponsored passage of five servants. [13]

In 1653, they were exempted by the Northampton County court from paying taxes, having "been Inhabitants of the county above thirty years, and having the great misfortune to lose by a fire and a great service, and etc." 


In 1665 Anthony and his family sold 200 acres to two white settlers and moved to Maryland, where they leased a 300-acre tract of land.  They gave the other 50 "headrights" acres to their son Richard.

Anthony died five years later, in the spring of 1670.  Mary then renegotiated the lease for another 99 years.  

In August of that same year, several months after her husband's death, a jury in a Virginia provincial court ruled that, because Mary was a widower and Anthony "was a Negro and by consequence an alien," ownership of the 50 acres Johnson had once been granted in Virginia by the King should be escheated, or reverted, to England, as it was "rightfully owned by the British Sovereign." [14]

Anthony Johnson lived a long life when, in America, disease and violent death by cruel overseers and Indian attacks resulted in low life expectancies. Court records reveal that he had also earned the respect and esteem of his community.


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The Anthony Johnson Story

PBS:  The Terrible Transformation

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"Of the Time" Objectivity Essential to Publication Credibility

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c
. 1630   Portrait of a Negro was drawn during the Renaissance by the renowned German artist, Albrecht Dürer. The artist probably drew the picture from life, using as a model a man he encountered either while in Nuremberg or in Italy. This handsome charcoal drawing, used in the broadcast program and by this Web site to represent Anthony Johnson, was sketched about a century before Johnson's birth. No known portraits of Johnson exist.  (Reversed) Image Credit: Graphische Sammlung Albertina
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 1655 MAR 08 TRIAL DISAMBIGUATION

    
IT IS NOT AT ALL CLEAR TO THE EDITOR OF THIS WEBPAGE HOW THE COURT'S RULING MAY BE INTERPRETED AS CLEARLY SENTENCING JOHN CASOR INTO SLAVERY.  IT WOULD APPEAR THIS DESIGNATION IS A CONSTRUCT OF INTERPRETATION MADE, IN THIS CASE, BY HISTORICAL REVISIONIST DAVID C. WALLACE, FROM WHOSE BOOK, "TWENTY-TWO TURBULENT YEARS 1639-1661," pgs 155-156,  THE ABOVE  COURTROOM SUMMARY WAS EXTRACTED.

 

[13 ] Although Hotten establishes the year 1625 as the last recorded date of Anthony and Mary's service under Edward Bennett, near Jamestown; he states further they may also have been the Anthony and Mary Johnson who were granted tax-exemption for having resided in Northampton County for over 30 years.  A review of Hotten's primary source documents should reveal an error in the 1625 date, since the Northampton Co. court's exemption is date-stamped 1653, and their residence there has been well established.