Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Unfortunate And Ironic Story Of John Casor

There was a time during the colonization of America, and earlier in England, that Christians considered it their right to enslave non-Christians of any race. The slaves could gain their freedom by converting to Christianity. Indentured servitude was also common. A wealthy person would give money or help in exchange for a specific amount of the debtor's labor, commonly seven years. A Christian could not be held as a servant for life except as punishment for criminal acts.
Antonio Johnson (who later changed his name to Anthony), a black or black-hispanic mixed man, and his future wife Mary, a black woman, were among the very first non-white and non-Native American people to arrive in America. They came by boat to Virginia in 1619 as indentured servants. Upon their release they were given land and eventually became wealthy enough to take on indentured servants of their own.
A black man by the name of John Casor became one of Anthony Johnson's indentured servants. Johnson failed to release John Casor after a time, so Casor ran away. Casor plead his case in court, but Johnson convinced the court that Casor had agreed to be Johnson's slave for life. The Virginia court ruled in Johnson's favor in 1654 or 1655, making John Casor America's first officially recognized slave.
In 1665 Anthony and Mary Johnson moved to Maryland to live out the rest of their lives, but not before setting the precedent for lifelong slavery of Christians. It didn't take long for rich land-owners and politicians to contrive ways to change the focus of slavery from religion to color, and slavery as we generally know it was born.
Sources:PBS: The Blurred Racial Lines Of Famous Families
Russell, Colored Freemen As Slave Owners In Virginia
Wikipedia Article: John Casor
Wikipedia Article: Anthony Johnson (American Colonial)


Art said...

The beginning of a long, sad chapter in US history. But it's an interesting story. I've never read that before (otherwise it probably would have been on my blog - lol).

Fuzzylogic said...

This is certainly an ironical story.Who would have known this was how the whole sad thing started!I had never read this anywhere,thanks for sharing this Anne.

Anne said...

Art - as you know, history is rife with factoids they never tell you about in school.

Fuzzy - I happened upon part of this story while researching something else. From there, it was just a matter of googling the names involved. Who knew?!

Cravey said...

Look at what happens when we all come to the realization that we're too old to think we know everything!

Most excellent piece QA!

Woozie said...

It would have eventually happened even without John Casor's story. The Spanish did it in South America, the English would have eventually caught on.

Anne said...

Cravey - there's so much happening all around us that we could never run out of things to learn.

Woozie - absolutely! In fact, the rat bastard politicians were already working on it, but the irony here is just so bizarre.

Jocelyn said...

I pop over here for a sloe gin fizz or something, and before I know it, you've learned me something.

Well done!

Kiyotoe said...

doesn't look like you're losing an audience to me ms. anne. But i wonder how everybody managed to miss that Tuskegee Airmen piece.

But thanks for the knowledge. I didn't know this story.


Anne said...

Art - by the way, I wouldn't sue or anything if you use this idea on your blog. It's nearly too strange to believe.

Jocelyn - welcome! Glad you learned something. This is a good example of what Kiyotoe and I were talking about in Friday's post. There's so much they don't teach us in schools that we don't even realize we don't know.

Kiyotoe - thank you, my brother. Abolitionists and suffragettes always did look out for each other. ;) Yeah, strange about the Tuskegee Airmen. I'm baffled.

I never heard this story either, and I bet most people haven't. I made sure to post links in case anyone should suspect I made this up.

singleton said...

Anne...no one would think you made it up, truth is always more horrid than fiction...
And to think we all sat through history class year after year and haven't the faintest about the truth.....

badside said...

Slavery has always needed some sort of excuse for the "owners" to rationalize having a slave. Unfortunately, there are still slaves NOW. In this day and age, there's no excuse for poverty, starvation, slavery and other forms of human abuse. Excellent post, thanks for putting it out there for us. I'm flippin' you the bird Anthony Johnson!

Dorky Dad said...

Thank God we're all past that now and all they do is just pay us dirt wages and then, when they're not making enough money, they just fire us.

I'm still stunned that slavery exists, however. I'm surprised you don't hear about that more often.

Anne said...

Singleton - it's amazing, I was bored and terrible at history in school. Now 20+ years later, I get to learn it in a way that's meaningful to me and I just can't get enough of it. Weird, huh?

Badside - yes, I should do a post about modern slavery and abuse. We rarely hear about it and nobody in power seems to want or be able to stop it.

Dorky Dad - I don't have all the facts right now, but in some third world countries people are still forced to work in inhumane conditions, and children can be sold for who knows what evil purpose.

deuddersun said...

Whatever ye do to the least of my brethren ye do unto me.

Not sure if that's it exactly but the message is there.


Enemy of the Republic said...

Anne, I wanted to email you about Baron, but didn't know your address. I couldn't bring myself to say his name on my post. I'm glad you found Spongy. We somehow need to spread the word. People are free to email me--it is on my profile.

Anne said...

Deuddersun - thank you, very well said.

Ms. Enemy - I've been trying to email you, haven't you gotten any of them? I thought my email was in my profile, but somehow it wasn't. I put it back in, hope it sticks there now.

If anyone wants to email me, the address is brainykitty66 at yahoo dot com.

just me said...

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Anne said...

Just Me - thanks, I thought it was pretty interesting too. I'm always on the lookout for historical facts that they don't teach in school - and there are a lot of them.

Big Bill said...

"The slaves could gain their freedom by converting to Christianity."

This is one of the silliest things I have ever heard.

Use your head, people.

If all you had to do to get your freedom was to profess to believe in Christ don't you think everyone would do it?

You think it could be kept some Big Secret from the slaves?

I can just see Homer Simpson, slaveowner: "Doh! You had to go and tell him about the Secret Christian Slave Rule and now I have to give him his freedom! Well at least we can be happy he was Sworn to Secrecy and will not tell his wife and kids, so we can still keep them as slaves!"

Or Homer Simpson, slave: "Believe in Christ? Heck no! I just loves my Fertility Goddess even though I am going to be a slave for life."

[Jeez. It makes me hurt to think about white American intelligence thinking that you would fall for such patently stupid information.]

Anonymous said...

Big Bill - I over-simplified that part just a little bit. I don't believe for a minute that slave owners didn't try to keep their slaves. But given the number of wars that have been fought over religion, I also don't believe people would convert or claim to convert that easily. Many would rather be martyrs.

Despite your exceptionally rude way of making a point, you do make a point. Why should we just believe what historians tell us? Now I must go research this some more.