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Antonio Johnson, First Indentured Servant- Chattel Slavery

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Gist of Freedom

Gist of Freedom


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The Gist of Freedom presents~From indentured to Chattel enslavement, volunteer temporary enslavement to forced life time slavery~
One of the places we have the clearest views of that "terrible transformation" is the colony of Virginia. In the early years of the colony, many Africans and poor whites -- most of the laborers came from the English working class -- stood on the same ground. Black and white servants/slaves worked side-by-side in the fields.
But in the mid 1600's the laws began to differentiate between races: the association of “servitude for natural life” with people of African descent became common. Re Negro John Punch (1640) was one of the early cases that made a racial distinction among indentured servants.3
In  1640, John Punch, an African indentured servant , is sentenced by a Virginia judge to serve for all his natural life."
One of the few recorded histories of an African in America that we can glean from early court records.
Free Blacks- "Antonio the negro," as he was named in the 1625 Virginia census was brought to the colony in 1621. At this time, English and Colonial law did not define racial slavery; the census calls him not a slave but a "servant." Later, Antonio changed his name to Anthony Johnson, married an African American servant named Mary, and they had four children. Mary and Anthony also became free, and he soon owned land and cattle and even indentured servants of his own.
Licooln's Campaign speech @ Cooper Union on The Framers' Votes on Slavery