anthony-johnson

Anthony Johnson once  known as Antonio was among the first wavy of African sold and transported to North America. Anthony birthday is unknown. Johnson was captured In his native land Angola and sold to Arab slave traders. In 1621 Johnson was eventually sold to a wealthy English Merchant Richard Bennet as a indenture servant to work on Bennet Virginia tobacco farm. Johnson arrive to the Bennet’s plantation in Jamestown, Virginia. Anthony wasn’t a slave but an indenture servant. Indenture servant work for someone for sum amount of years and earn their way to freedom. While on the Bennet plantation Anthony was one hard worker. Anthony ability to get things done in a quickly and neat minor impressed Bennet, but one day Anthony almost lost his life in the Indian Massacre of 1622 when his owner plantation was attacked by the Native Powhatan, who were Native Americans dominant in the Tidewater of Virginia, were upset at the encroachment of the colonist into their land. They attacked the settlement on Good Friday and killed 52 of the 57 men on the Bennet plantation.

In 1623 one year after his arrival Mary  arrived from England, she was brought to work on the Bennet’s plantation. Mary was the only Negro woman on the Bennet’s plantation. Johnson won her heart and with Bennet blessing they were married. Together they had four children. Over the years Johnson became very close to the Bennet’s family, so close that Bennet baptized Johnson children and gave Johnson a piece of land so he can do some farming of his own to freed his family.

In 1635 Anthony and Mary gained their freedom. The first thing Johnson did when he earned his freedom was changed his name from Antonio to Anthony. Africans was not use to having a last name, but Johnson notice that all Englishmen had a last named. Slaves that become free would normally take their master last name, but not Anthony. Anthony named himself Johnson as sign to show he was a free man. Anthony Johnson first enters the legal records as a free man when he purchase a calf in 1647.On July 24, 1651 Anthony and Mary took ownership of a large plot of farmland, they acquired 250 acres of land and purchase located on the Great Naswattock Creek in Northampton County, Virginia,. They purchase Five indentured servant to help with the large land.

In 1652 Anthony farm caught fire destroying most of his land. Anthony had to applied to the courts for tax relief.

When Anthony was release from servitude and developed his 250 acres of land he bought four white and one black indenture servants. In 1653 John Casor, a black indenture servant whose contract Anthony appeared to have brought in 1640’s, which mean that Casor have serve his servitude. Casor wanted to be free, but Anthony did not want to free Casor claim he was his slave for the rest of his life. In 1655 the courts ruled in Anthony Johnson favor and ordered Casor to serve Anthony for life.

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The Johnson faced a lot of discrimination because the color of their skin. They were several attempts by neighboring white to take the Johnsons land. In 1657 one of Johnson’s white neighbor Edmund Scarborough forged a letter in which Anthony acknowledged a debt. Anthony did not contest the case. Anthony was illiterate, he nor his family could read or write, so Anthony could not have written the letter; nevertheless, the courts award Scarborough 100 acres of the Johnson’s land to pay off his alleged debt.

Perhaps because of increasing harassment from neighboring whites the Johnson’s moved in 1665 to Somerset County, Maryland, with Casor his slave, 12 head of cattle, and 8 sheep. In Somerset, Maryland Anthony brought an 300-acre tobacco farmland from a white man Stephen Horsey, which Anthony named “Tories Vineyard”. Anthony Johnson died in 1670 leaving Tories Vineyard to his wife and son John. What happened to Anthony and Mary other children is unknown, possibly sold back into slavery. When Mary died their son John was left ownership of Tories Vineyard, but when John died he did not have an wife or children, so the Tories Vineyard perished.

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