The Beginning of Slavery

After submitting my last post about the Constitution declaring a slave as three-fifths of a person it got me thinking of how it all started? We know how it ended, but no one really talks about how it all began...at least I couldn't remember. I decided to do some research and to find out.

At first I did a Google search for "history of slaves in america" and found a lot of the results brought back were how Africans were brought over in ships and sold as slaves, but there had to be something before that right? I dug deeper. What led to full blown out slavery was something called indentured servitude.

Indentured servitude was a common practice throughout the globe in which a land owner hired servants to work their land. The land owners paid for their passage on ship and were provided room and board. The servitude usually lasted between 2-7 years and were given the opportunity to work hard, pay off their debts, and become land owners themselves. Oh, I also found that servitude wasn't based on color, rather creed and whether or not you were a Christian. Servants were both black and white.

I also found the story of one individual known as Antonio, a Negro as was entered on a manifest. He was an indentured servant and worked really hard and in four years was able to pay off his debts and became a land owner himself with a 50 acre plot of land with supplies and equipment called "freedom dues." Antonio changed his name to Anthony Johnson and hired five indentured servants himself increasing his land to 250 acres. As part of the contract each servant increased the land ownership by 50 acres.

One of Anthony's servants was named John Casor (also a Negro) in which he contested the length of his servitude and believed that his employer unfairly extended the length of servitude. The case went to court and ruled in favor of Mr. Johnson and John Casor's length of servitude was extended for life! Anthony Johnson, a black guy, was essential the first slave owner of another black guy! Because of this, is one of the main reasons why reparations for blacks and slavery is difficult, if at all, to enforce or pass.

At around the same time this was happening with Anthony Johnson another case of a land owner had three runaway indentured servants. One was black, two were white. They servants were captured and taken to court and the two white servants had an extension on their servitude of four years while the black servant's was extended for life, which started slavery being based on color rather than creed. By the way this was early 16th century (1600-1630's) and slavery didn't become law until 1665 so it evolved gradually over time that started out as hired labor to enslaved labor for life.

Interesting eh? This is obviously isn't something taught in the text books so one should question, why? I'll leave that for another post coming soon!

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