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Early in 1620, Johnson was captured by slave traders in his native land of Angolamarker and sold to a merchant belonging to the Virginia Company. He arrived in Virginia in 1621 aboard the James. At this time he was known in the records as "Antonio, a Negro". Johnson was sold to a white planter named Bennet to work on his Virginia tobacco farm. During this time in the Virginia colony, the slaves were held to many of the same conditions of indentured servitude and were often released after a set period of time. Many of the more fortunate slaves even received land and equipment after their contracts for work expired. Bennet even allowed Johnson to own his own plot of land to be used for farming.

In 1622, he almost lost his life due to a Powhatan Indian attack on his farm. The Indians, who were native to Virginia, were upset at the advance of the tobacco planters on their business and planned an attack on Good Friday. Of the Fifty seven men on the farm where Johnson worked, fifty two of them died during the attacks.

The following year (1622) "Mary a Negro" arrived aboard the ship Margaret and was brought in to work on the plantation where she was the only woman. They became husband and wife and lived together for over forty years. By around 1635 Anthony and Mary were free, and Anthony changed his name to Anthony Johnson. Because Johnson owned a slave of his own, he claimed 250 acres of land based on the headright system. He is recognized in Virginia court documents when he pled for tax relief after a fire destroyed much of his plantation, and in a case in which he contested the freedom suit of a slave, John Casor. Johnson won the suit and retained Casor as his property. In the tax-relief case (1653) the justices noted that Anthony and Mary "have lived Inhabitants in Virginia (above thirty years)" and had been respected for their "hard labor and known service".

In 1657, Johnson’s white neighbor, Edmund Scarburgh, forged a letter in which Johnson acknowledged a debt. Even though Johnson was clearly illiterate and couldn’t have written the letter, the court granted a substantial amount of Johnson’s land (100 acres) to pay off his "debt".

In 1665, Anthony Johnson and his family moved to Somerset County, Maryland, and negotiated a lease of a 300 acre plot of land for ninety nine years. Johnson used this land to start a tobacco farm which he named Tories Vineyards. After Johnson’s death in 1670, a court ruling set a precedent that would be an important factor in determining the social status of freed black men in the colonies. A white Virginian planter was allowed to seize Johnson’s land because a ruling by a local court that said, "as a black man, Anthony Johnson was not a citizen of the colony." Johnson’s children were only able to hold on to enough land to become independent farmers, no where near the wealth his father had stolen from him.

The forty remaining acres of Johnson’s original property was inherited by his grandson John Johnson Jr.. He named the farm Angola, as a tribute to his grandfathers birth country. After an inability to pay taxes, John Johnson jr. lost the land and died in 1721, ending the Johnson name (for he had no children) and his grandfathers legacy.

References

  1. Horton 2002, p. 29.
  2. Breen 1980, p. 8.
  3. Horton 2002, p. 26.
  4. Rodriguez 2007, p. 352.
  5. Breen 1980, p. 10.
  6. Breen 1980, p. 10.
  7. Rodriguez 2007, p. 352.
  8. Breen 1980, p. 11.
  9. Breen 1980, p. 13-15.
  10. Breen 1980, p. 10.
  11. Horton 2002, p. 27.
  12. Johnson 1999, p. 44.
  13. Horton 2002, p. 27.
  14. Johnson 1999, p. 46.


T.H. Breen and Stephen Innes, "Myne Owne Ground" Race and Freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640-1676, Oxford University Press, 1980.

James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Hard road to freedon: the story of African America, Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Junius P. Rodriguez, Slavery in the United States: a social, political, and historical encyclopedia, Volume 2, ABC-CLIO, 2007.

Charles Johnson, Patricia Smith and the WGBH Research Team, Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999.

Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone, The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America, Harvard University Press, 1998.

Sources

  • T.H. Breen and Stephen Innes, "Myne Owne Ground" Race and Freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640-1676, Oxford University Press, 1980.


  • James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Hard road to freedon: the story of African America, Rutgers University Press, 2002.


  • Junius P. Rodriguez, Slavery in the United States: a social, political, and historical encyclopedia, Volume 2, ABC-CLIO, 2007.


  • Charles Johnson, Patricia Smith and the WGBH Research Team, Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999.


  • Ira Berlin, _Many Thousands Gone, The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America_, Harvard University Press, 1998.




  • Nash, Gary B., Julie R. Jeffrey, John R. Howe, Peter J. Frederick, Allen F. Davis, and Allan M. Winkler. The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society. 6th ed. New York: Pearson, 2004. 74-75.


  • Matthews, Harry Bradshaw, The Family Legacy of Anthony Johnson: From Jamestown, VA to Somerset, MD, 1619-1995. Oneonta, NY: Sondhi Loimthongkul Center for Interdependenc, Hartwick College, 1995.



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