CONTEXT

July 26, 2011

‘Myne owne ground’

In 1635, in late July, Anthony Johnson claimed 250 acres along the Eastern Shore of the colony of Virginia, a claim granted in recognition of his acquisition of five indentured servants – settlers were given ‘headrights’ of 50 acres per indenture.

18th century depiction of a tobacco plantation.

Johnson himself had started life in Virginia as an indentured servant and, after serving his six or seven years, set up on his own and prospered.  Some twenty years later he was still farming and still using indentured servants, but one of them – John Casor – went to work for Johnson’s neighbor, claiming that he had served his indenture and was free. Johnson sued the neighbor and won.  The court also ruled – though it’s not clear why – – that John Casor was no longer indentured, but must work for Johnson for the rest of his life.  That he was, in fact, a slave.

That opinion, issued on March 8, 1654, institutionalized slavery in America for the first time.  Until then, no laws regarding slavery existed and most Africans were treated just like indentured servants, eventually creating a class of free black colonists.

Curiously, the man who triggered that event – Anthony Johnson – had been kidnapped in Angola and sold to a Virginia planter.  He had been ‘Antonio, a Negro,’ when he arrived in the colonies.  Having served his indenture, he became a free black man and called himself Anthony Johnson.

Not long after the court case, Johnson and his wife were swindled out of half of their land – what Johnson had called ‘myne owne ground.’ They moved to Maryland where again Johnson prospered.  When he died, he set another sad precedent, which deprived his wife and children of their inheritance: the court ruled that Anthony Johnson was “a negro and by consequence, an alien” and thus his property was forfeit to the state.

 ***

Many happy returns on his 67th to Mick Jagger – remember when you watch the video that these people are in their early sixties.  Maybe they’ve been cloned somewhere along the way…

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3 Comments »

  1. great vid! 🙂

    Comment by ninachat — July 26, 2011 @ 12:21 am | Reply

  2. I think it’s Scorses’ concert film if you want to see Mick when he looked his age and then some.

    Comment by Carol — July 26, 2011 @ 10:23 am | Reply

  3. Sad story great video. Thank you Jean

    Comment by avery — July 27, 2011 @ 8:29 am | Reply


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