Legalized Slavery

SOURCE: University Press, NY, 1940, p. 378

“In 1650 there were only 300 negroes in Virginia, about one percent of
the population. They weren’t slaves any more than the approximately
4,000 white indentured servants working out their loans for passage
money to Virginia, and who were granted 50 acres each when freed from
their indentures, so they could raise their own tobacco.

Slavery was established in 1654 when Anthony Johnson, Northampton
County, convinced the court that he was entitled to the lifetime
services of John Casor, a negro. This was the first judicial approval of
life servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

But who was Anthony Johnson, winner of this epoch-making decision?
Anthony Johnson was a negro himself, one of the original 20 brought to
Jamestown (1619) and ‘sold’ to the colonists. By 1623 he had earned his
freedom and by 1651, was prosperous enough to import five ‘servants’ of
his own, for which he received a grant of 250 acres as ‘headrights.’

Anthony Johnson ought to be in a ‘Book of Firsts.’ As the most ambitious
of the first 20, he could have been the first negro to set foot on
Virginia soil. He was Virginia’s first free negro and first to establish
a negro community, first negro landowner, first negro slave owner and as
the first, white or black, to secure slave status for a servant, he was
actually the founder of slavery in Virginia.

A remarkable man.”