Without a doubt one of the darkest chapters in American history would be that of slavery. Slaves, who were black people from Africa, were bought and sold like cattle, and forced to work their entire life for their owners. There was no limitation on age or gender or the hours they would work. But slavery was vital for the economy in the southern states of the US. However, slavery was not always a part of the colonial American scenery, and was started by a former indentured servant, a black man. You read that correctly, the first American slave owner was black.
Prior to 1655 the colonies in America had indentured servants. This differed greatly to slavery in many areas. Indentured servants usually had a contract of 4 to 7 years of service where they would be provided food, accommodation, clothing in return for labour. Upon the completion of their service most were given land, a cow, arms, clothes and a years supply of free corn. They were essentially not owned by land owners, instead entering a contract with the land owner in return for work and freedom. Slavery on the other hand had no such benefits. Now you are probably wondering what happened in 1655 for all of it to change?
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How a black man became the first American slave owner
In 1621 a black man by the name of Anthony Johnson arrived from Africa to Virginia to be an indentured servant, not a slave. He was captured by Arab traders in his native Angola and sold as a slave. By 1635 he had completed his service contract, and by the late 1640’s he had acquired 250 acres of land. As a land owner he started using indentured servants himself, acquiring five. In 1654 one of his servants, a black man by the name of John Casor was due for release from his service. Johnson decided to extend his service and Casor left to work for Robert Parker who was a free white man. That year Johnson sued Parker in Northampton Court, and in 1655 the court ruled that Johnson could hold Cason indefinitely. The court gave sanction for blacks to hold slaves of their own race. This made Anthony Johnson the first American slave owner and John Cason the first slave in the American colonies. It was another 15 years before the colonial assembly granted free whites, blacks and Indians permission to own black slaves.