A Matter of Ownership

Anthony had no second thoughts about his petition before the court. It was nothing personal. This was just how life worked.

His mind wandered back over his own life.

He remembered his days as a boy in the Ndongo village in Angola, when the Imbangala warriors swept in, slaughtering his parents right in front of him.

He remembered being traded with his brothers to a Portugese merchant for a pair of matchlock muskets. This was the first white he’d ever seen. He thought he was seeing a ghost.

He remembered the day he was baptized by the Jesuits in Luanda. He liked them. They taught him about heaven and how to read and write. They impressed upon him the need to accept his lot in life. They renamed him Antonio.

He remembered being chained and herded onto a ship. He heard he was going to a place called Mexico.

He remembered listening inside the hot dark hold to the sounds of canons blaring.

He remembered seeing the name on the stern of the ship that took him aboard with twenty other of his tribesmen – the White Lion.

He remembered that last day of August in 1619 when the White Lion landed in the New World and his services were indentured for seven years to an Englishman for a dozen barrels of salted pork. He remembered hearing the name “Virginia” for the first time. Four days later he saw his future wife, Mary, for the first time as she was led off another ship.

The judge entered the courtroom and read from a scrolled paper.

“The court finds that John Casor, Negro, is indeed found to be the property for life of the petitioner, Anthony Johnson, Free Negro.”

The first African indentured-servant brought to America now became the first African-American slaveholder.

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