Were the first African Americans in Jamestown slaves or indentured servants?

Were the first African Americans in Jamestown slaves or indentured servants?

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Recently, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia referred to the first African Americans to arrive in Jamestown as indentured servants. This quickly created a twitter storm of corrections, first by random users, then by historians.

However, wikipedia seems to bear the governor out.

It's pretty clear that the institution of the pure chattel slavery was in completely in place a generation later, with all the horrific consequences thereof. But was this something in place from the start, or was it something that evolved in the first few dacades of the colony.


The dividing line between the two is really debatable. Many people consider slavery to be essentially indefinite Indentured Servitude. But of course that means you could also argue that the best way to think of Indentured Servitude is "temporary slavery". Even more accurate would be "theoretically temporary slavery". The US's 13th Amendment may have mentioned them separately, but it outlawed both.

I say "theoretically temporary" because there's a huge incentive for the owner of the contract to ignore its end, and the two party's unequal status can provide them the opportunity to do so. This goes double if the laborer is further hampered by being illiterate, not fluent in English, and/or a different race. Escapes were common, and the typical punishment if caught was extending the term. The term could also be extended for a number of other reasons (pregnancies, illness, etc). So of course the more of those hampers you had, the easier it was to keep you on longer, or even indefinitely.

Indentured Servitude was initially by design just a way to allow poor laborers to afford to immigrate with a contract enforceable on the receiving end within English Common Law. However, the growing demand for labor meant that once the practice was established, many did not enter into their servitude themselves voluntarily. They were signed into it by parents, courts, or kidnappers. This includes white Europeans, hapless nearby Native Americans, and the first black slaves transported.

The first Africans in Jamestown came as indentured servants and were released from this servitude per their contracts just like white indentured servants. It is about 40 years later that blacks were brought over as slaves.

William Tucker (Jamestown immigrant)

William Tucker (January 7, 1588– February 17, 1643-44) settled in Jamestown of the Colony of Virginia in the early 17th century. [a] He was a military commander. [2] In May 1623, he offered a toast in a meeting with members of the Powhatan tribe. The wine that they had been given was a poisonous cocktail prepared by Dr. John Potts. It killed 200 Native Americans and another 50 were slain. He owned land with his brothers-in-law and was a member of the House of Burgesses, a commission of the peace, and was appointed to the Council.

West African Society at the Point of European Contact

Art, such as this bronze head from Benin, is used to recount the history of the kingdom and its rulers.

Powerful kingdoms , beautiful sculpture, complex trade, tremendous wealth, centers for advanced learning — all are hallmarks of African civilization on the eve of the age of exploration.

Hardly living up to the " dark continent " label given by European adventurers, Africa's cultural heritage runs deep. The empires of Ghana , Mali , and Songhay are some of the greatest the world has ever known. Timbuktu , arguably the world's oldest university, was the intellectual center of its age.

Although primarily agricultural, West Africans held many occupations. Some were hunters and fishers. Merchants traded with other African communities, as well as with Europeans and Arabs. Some West Africans mined gold, salt, iron, copper or even diamonds. African art was primarily religious, and each community had artisans skilled at producing works that would please the tribal gods.

The center of African life in ancient and modern times is the family. Since Africans consider all individuals who can trace roots to a common ancestor , this family often comprised hundreds of members.

The slave trade that brought millions of men and women to North America unwillingly, also affected many areas of Africa. This map shows some of the regions involved in the African slave trade.

Like Native American tribes, there is tremendous diversity among the peoples of West Africa. Some traced their heritage through the father's bloodline , some through the mothers. Some were democratic, while others had a strong ruler. Most African tribes had a noble class, and slavery in Africa predates the written record.

The slavery known to Africans prior to European contact did not involve a belief in inferiority of the slaves. Most slaves in West Africa were captured in war. Although legally considered property, most African slaves were treated as family members. Their children could not be bought or sold. Many achieved high honors in their communities, and freedom by manumission was not uncommon. Plantation slavery was virtually unknown on the African continent.

The impending slave trade brings ruin to West Africa. Entire villages disappear. Guns and alcohol spread across the continent. Tribes turn against other tribes as the once-fabled empires fade into history. The Diaspora of African peoples around the world had begun.

First African Slaves Arrive In Jamestown On This Day In 1619

The arrival of the 󈬄 and odd” African captives aboard a Dutch “man of war” ship on this day (August 20) in the year 1619 historically marks the early planting of the seeds of the American slave trade. Although American slavery was not a known institution at the time, this group of Africans was the first to go on record to be sold as involuntary laborers.

While not much is known about the captive Africans, it has been speculated by many that they were part of a prize for a slave trader heading to the Spanish West Indies. Many theories abound with the most prominent being that, like White settlers, Blacks who arrived in America that could not afford passage in to the colonies would become indentured servants.

The arrival of the “20 and odd” would steamroll servitude from being a small custom then to legally binding slavery by the 1660s.

Watch the history of American slavery here:

The ugly of history of slavery in the United States continues to loom over this country as an unfortunate reminder that African Americans were once seen as being no more valuable than farm animals.

Even as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution effectively outlawed slavery (but not racism), the effects of the practice have haunted Blacks for generations.

One has to wonder what it must have been like to come to a new country…against your will. With the ocean keeping you permanently distanced from all you knew, it must have been a sad and terrible existence indeed.

It is imperative that we remember those ancestors who gave so much and got so little, with their humanity being stripped from their very core. Today, NewsOne remembers these first captives who were stolen from their homes — never to see their loved ones and experience their God-given right to freedom again.

First Africans in an American English Colony – PT 2

The first captured Africans brought and sold as indentured servants in Jamestown Colony was 1619. Here is the documentation.

The number of Africans is documented with c olonial Virginia’s census, compiled in March 1620, at which time the population included 892 Europeans and, among “Others not Christians in the Service of the English,” were four Indians and thirty-two Africans. Fifteen of the Africans were male and seventeen were female.

Although it is uncertain where the Africans lived, some probably resided at Jamestown in the households of Sir George Yeardley (who arrived in May 1610) and Captain William Peirce, both of whom later were credited with having black servants.

An indentured African named Antonio arrived in 1621 in Virginia aboard the ship the James . The following March 22, 1622, he will be one of only a handful of people who manage to survive an Indian attack on the plantation of Edward Bennett, outside of Jamestown. The Indians led by Chief Opechancanough of the Powhatan tribe attacked English settlements, killing as many as a quarter of the colony’s inhabitants. They murdered men, women, and children in a surprise onslaught. The attacks took place on tobacco plantations along the James River that were some distance from Jamestown. There were 347 colonists or at least a quarter of Virginia’s 1,200 English population, killed. The Indian chief became weary of the English encroachment on Powhatan lands.

First African Born in North America

Two of the first Africans (indentured servants – who could be brought and sold) to be brought to North America in August 1619 were simply called Anthony and Isabella. They married and on January 3, 1624, gave birth to the first black child born in English America. They named him William Tucker in honor of a Virginia planter, Captain William Tucker. Records confirm it due to his being baptized in the church in Jamestown, Virginia.

The couple, Anthony and Isabella, had worked in the tobacco fields and cypress groves of the captain’s plantation. Their son later married a mixed-race woman and had a family of his own. He was an indentured servant who completed his contract and became very well off and owned indentured servants himself in Elizabeth City County, Virginia which is now the city of Hampton. It is unknown when the 1624 William Tucker died but it is believed he was buried in Hampton in the Tucker Family cemetery.

By 1624, when the next census in the Jamestown Colony was compiled, the African population had dropped to twenty-one. Some of the Africans probably had succumbed to the so-called ‘seasoning’ process, whereby summertime diseases killed a majority of new residents during the colony’s first few decades. For this reason, Jamestown leaders periodically requested that ships carrying new servants arrive during the winter months.

Four of the eleven Africans living at Flowerdew Hundred Plantation were identified by name: Anthony, William, John, and another Anthony. This location was a plantation on the upper reaches of the James River owned by a leading merchant Abraham Peirsey who had purchased the slaves from Governor George Yeardley.

The 1625 census listed twenty-three Africans and a single Indian, all servants, who resided on plantations scattered from the mouth of the James River to Flowerdew Hundred. As servants, they probably lived in houses separate from their European masters.

By 1628, the African population in Virginia Colony jumped dramatically when the ship Fortune, out of Massachusetts Bay, captured a Portuguese slaver carrying about 100 Angolans, whom the captain sold in Virginia in exchange for tobacco.

So truly begins the long history of African slaves brought to Virginia, sold and who worked in the tobacco fields. This is some basic information which might tie-in to your family tree if your ancestors originated along the James River in the 1600s.

The 1621 Pilgrims of Plymouth in the Massachusetts Colony did not have African slaves in the 1600s. They had indentured servants, regular wage servants or apprentices

Photos: First Africans to Jamestown Capt. William Tucker and Tucker Family Cemetery

Were the first African Americans in Jamestown slaves or indentured servants? - History

Marion T. Lane is already a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The plaques and certificates adorning the walls of her Buckingham Township home, as well as the pins she wears on her clothes, are testimonials.

Two of her African American ancestors were patriots. one, Isaac Brown, served as a sergeant at Valley Forge another, Abraham Brown, provided beef to Revolutionary forces in Virginia.

Now, this year, as the world commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first “Twenty and Odd Negroes" brought to Point Comfort, Va., in August 1619, Lane is laying claim to another ancestor: Margarita, one of the first documented Africans brought here in a circuitous journey on the English ship White Lion.

Whether or not Lane can prove she is a descendant of Margarita — some genealogists have raised doubts — discussion around the 400th anniversary of the “African Landing” may be changing narratives of how the history of slavery, and race, is told.

For instance, did the early colonists treat the Angolans as slaves or as indentured servants? After all, there was not a system of permanent lifetime slavery in Virginia until 1662. Were they simple laborers, or were the skills they brought integral to the colony’s survival? Were they already versed in organized political systems? Were they baptized?

As for their journey, those captured in Angola were originally bound for Mexico, where slavery had been entrenched since about 1502. But English privateers — essentially legal pirates — seized them and brought them to the colonies to trade for supplies.

Perhaps even more surprising, genealogical research is showing that the African Landing is not just the origin story for black America, but for some white Americans, too.

Changing narratives

Historians describe this 40-year period before slavery in Virginia: There were white and black servants — white people were indentured, with up to seven-year contracts. Black people did not have contracts initially, but adults were sometimes given freedom after a number of years also.

“We don’t have the precise language for that period between 1619 and 1662," said Andre Kearns, a marketing director in Washington who is researching his family history in early Virginia. "Not only was slavery being constructed, but race was being constructed in support of that business model of slavery.”

Calvin Pearson, whose Project 1619 Inc. advocated for a more accurate telling of where the first Africans landed, said, “We refer to them as enslaved Africans who had the opportunity for freedom prior to 1661."

In 2015, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources revised a historic marker to note the first Africans were brought to Point Comfort — now Fort Monroe in Hampton — and not Jamestown, a narrative that had existed for nearly 400 years. What was the reason it remained centered on Jamestown for so long?

“The Jamestown false narrative was due to economic tourism," said Pearson, “and they were unwilling to give up that share of the tourism until Barack Obama officially declared Fort Monroe the official landing site.”

And, noted Pearson, calling it the African “landing” is important because it was not "an arrival. Arrival shows an intended destination, like a train or plane. It was an unintentional landing of the first Africans who were captured by pirates at sea.”

Also not part of the original narrative is that the Angolans “brought useful skills that the early English man needed to survive," according to the National Park Service. "They were skilled farmers, herders, blacksmiths and artisans.”

Tim Hashaw’s 2007 book, The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom in Jamestown, tells how some of those early arrivals had been baptized as Christians, as they had been interacting and trading with the Portuguese for many years. On the White Lion were Isabella, Antonio, Antoney, Mary, and John, and on a second ship, the Treasurer was a woman records show as “Angelo,” although most historians now call her Angela.

White people, including Hashaw, have also discovered that their genealogy traces back to 1619.

Take the story of John Punch, the black man whom Virginia courts sentenced to lifetime servitude in 1640. He is linked to former President Obama, say genealogists. However, this link to slavery is not from his Kenyan father but through Obama’s white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, according to a team from Ancestry.com.

Paul Heinegg, a retired engineer whose years of genealogical research resulted in the award-winning books Free African Americans of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia and Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware, has found evidence that most free biracial families resulted from a relationship between a white woman and an African man, either enslaved, freed or servant, and not from a white male plantation owner and an enslaved black woman. In some cases, the descendants of the freed biracial families continued marrying whites until their children eventually were considered white.

History of heritage

Lane, 70, is a retired educator and children’s book author with a doctorate in education from Temple University and a post-doctoral degree from the University of London. She grew up in West Philadelphia at 51st and Race Streets, and considers herself “triracial,” a blending of African, European and Native American ancestry.

“We range in color from vanilla, like me, to cinnamon brown and dark chocolate. All in one family,” Lane said.

Her father, John E. James, 98, who worked at the Post Office after returning home from World War II, used to tell his children they had “grandfathers” who fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

“I didn’t believe him,” she said. After all, school hadn’t taught her that black people were part of that history. But one day in February 2006, she and her father saw Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates on his PBS program The African Americans, talking about her family. There was "one of our cousins singing in the choir” of Elam Baptist Church in Charles City County, Va. The church had been founded by one of her Brown ancestors.

By October that year, Lane had been accepted in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Some genealogists have raised doubts about whether Lane’s research proves she descends from those first captives.

Heinegg reviewed a paper Lane wrote with Constance R. Cole, a genealogist based in State College, Pa. He said he doesn’t believe they have made a case to connect Lane to one of the women on the White Lion.

“Knowing something from family history, that’s not genealogy, you’ve got to go back and prove it,” Heinegg said.

Lane says her oral family tradition has always linked her father’s family to Anderson Cumbo, who was born about 1775.

Lane and Cole believe Cumbo is a descendant of Emanuell Cambow, who they assert was Margarita’s son. Andre Kearns, a Cumbo descendant who created a Cumbo family website, also doesn’t think Lane has enough proof, but he said there’s not enough to exclude a connection, either.

“Definitive proof is going to be almost impossible to get," Cole said. Because Lane’s ancestral line to Cumbo comes through Lane’s father’s mother, it would be impossible to use YDNA, the genealogical tool that matches ancestry through fathers and sons. (Cole also noted that the Tucker family of Hampton may be the only African American family with documentation showing they are descended from the White Lion.)

Charles L. Blockson, founder of the Charles L. Blockson Collection at Temple University, backed Cole’s reputation. She helped him verify his own family stories of being related to Harriet Tubman.

“Connie is reliable,” Blockson said.

To Cole, the criticism of her research was a matter of protecting the status quo. When new historical information comes forth, she said, historians and genealogists who have written books supporting one narrative, are hesitant to accept anything that “upends the apple cart.”

“If we continue to settle for these canned responses from historians and accept it all blindly as true, we do nothing to bring the history from obscurity to the light,” Cole said. “We meet with resistance and opposition in identification of African Americans in history.”

Were the first African Americans in Jamestown slaves or indentured servants? - History

The Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-War in 1619 .

This was a tragic day indeed for these 20 Negroes and millions more who would follow, to be enslaved in the English Colonies of North America and the United States over the course nearly two and one half Centuries!

This was the beginning of 247 years of combined slavery for these people and their descendents. This is a good time to emphasize that the ancestors of African Americans did not voluntarily emigrate to the English Colonies of North America or the United States. They were brought here by force!

We sometimes imagine that oppressive slave laws were put quickly into full force by greedy landowners in the English Colonies of North America. The enslavment of Africans and Indians had been common in Central and South America a century before it was introduced into the English Colonies of North America.

In 1619 the first Africans were brought to Jamestown. Their status is presumed to have been indentured servitude. Over the course of a few decades the enslavement of black Africans was established, in the individual English Colonies of North American, one law at a time and one colony at a time. The clearest view I have of the "peculiar institution" of slavery is in the colony of Virginia. During the very early period of Virginia's history, black Africans and poor whites shared a similar status. Blacks and whites, men and women often worked side-by-side in the fields. Anyone who broke their servant contract was punished. In the turn of events leading to the legalized enslavement of black Africans, the fact that Africans could not speak, read, nor write English upon their arrival. Africans had no concept what an indentured servant was, let alone and indentured servant contract.

Early colonial court records in Virginia concern "Antonio the Negro," as he was named in the 1625 Virginia census. He was brought to the colony in 1621. At that time, English and Colonial law had not yet defined racial slavery the census called Antonio 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 became free, and he soon owned some land and cattle. He even engaged indentured servants to work for him.

In 1640 three indentured servants, one black and two white, fled from a Virginia plantation. When caught and returned to their owner, the two white servants had their indenture extended for four years. The black servant, named John Punch, was sentenced to serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life. John Punch's status was changed from an indentured servant to a slave. It is not difficult to imagine that how rapidly it became an accepted practice to falsly accuse black indentured servants of infractions in order to keep the enslaved for life.

In 1650, Anthony was one of 400 Africans in the Virginia Colony, among a white settler population of nearly 19,000. In Virginia county Johnson where Johnson lived 20 or so African men and women were free, and 13 of this number owned their own homes. But a drastic change loomed in the near future for Africans who were brought to Virginia! In 1661, the enslavement of black Africans was leagalized in Virginia.

Traditionally, Englishmen had held the belief they had the right to enslave non-Christians or captives taken in a just war. Conveniently Africans and Native American fit this definition. But what if these captives learned to speak English and converted to Christianity ? Should they be released from bondage and given their freedom?

Instead the status of Africans was not determined by changing their religious faith, but by their unchangeable skin color! Also when freed black indentured servants were percieved as a threat to the property-owning white elite. The establishment government placed restrictions on available lands thus creating a general unrest among all newly freed indentured servants.

In 1676, freed working class men rebelled burned Jamestown to the ground, (Bacon's Rebellion. This made indentured servitude look less attractive to Virginia's ruling class. Also indentured servants were entitled to move on once indenture obligation was fulfilled. The replacement of indentured servants was continual and costly for plantation owners. It was expedient to enslave Black Africans for life because African were easily identified by their black skin color. It was even extra expedience to legalize the enslavement of black children.

Ironically the first English Colony in North America to legalize the enslavemnt of black Africans was Massachusetts in 1641. But laws were soon pass to legalize slavery in the other English Colonies.

In 1662 Virginia legalized the enslavement of black Africans. All children born to enslaved mothers were the property of the slave mother's owner. The condition of enslavement was passed down from generation to generation. 1705 Virginia declared that "All servants imported and brought in this County. who were not Christians in their Native Country. shall be slaves. Negroes, mulattoes and Indian shall be held to be real estate."

English suppliers responded to the increasing demand for slaves in the English Colonies in North American. In 1672, England officially entered the slave trade when the King of England chartered the Royal African Company, encouraging it to expand the British slave trade. In 1698, the English Parliament ruled that any British subject could be liscensed to practice in the African slave trade.

During the first 50 years of the 18th century, the number of Africans brought to British colonies, on British ships, rose from 5,000 to 45,000 a year. England surpassed Portugal and Spain to become the largest trafficker in the African Slave Trade!

In 1700, when newly arriving slaves were being taken to the slave market at Jamestown, this is the scene they witnessed. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the sight of a hook in the body of an African sent the message in the strongest possible way. Slave owners were not joking and enslaved Africans had better take them seriously! The term "lynching" is said to have derived from Charles Lynch, a slave owner at Lynchburg, Virginia during the latter part of the 1600s and early part of the 1700s. It is reported that during that period of Colonial history, Charles Lynch and other Virginia planters were driving themselves into bankruptcy by torturing and killing so many Africans, in their attempts to force Africans to submit to slavery.

William Lynch (Willie), a brother of Charles Lynch, who owned a plantation on the Island of Barbados, West Indies, was invited to come to Jamestown advise slave owners about his methods of controling slaves.

Willie’s Advice Speech, deliverd on the banks of the James River in 1712: “Gentlemen, I greet you here on the banks of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve.

First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods of controlling slaves.

Ancient Rome would envy us if my program were implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we cherish. I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique. While Rome used cords of woods as crosses for standing human bodies along its highways in great numbers you are here using the tree and the rope on occasion.
I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree a couple of miles back. You are not only losing a valuable stock by hangings, you are having back. You are not only losing a valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for profit, you suffer occasional fires, your animals are often killed.

Gentlemen, you know what your problems are, I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them. In my bag here, I have a fool proof method for controlling your black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least 300 hundred years.

My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it. I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work for you. Take this simple little list of differences, and think about them.
On top of my list is "Age", but it is there only because it starts with an "A": the second is "Color" or shade, there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantation, status on plantation, attitude of owners, whether the slave lives in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine hair, coarse hair, or is tall or short.

Now that you have the list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action but before that I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.The Black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self re-fueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Don't forget you must pitch the old Black male vs. the young Black male, and the young Black male against the old Black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female.

You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on you, their owner. They must love, respect and trust only their master. Gentlemen these kits are your keys to control use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful.

Source: The AFRO-American Newspaper

Burke - Carter Genealogy Connections

John Carter (1613-1669) sailed from England to the Jamestown Virginia in 1635. He apparently was very well connected with the power structure in England. He rapidly became elected to the House of Burgess and appointed as Colonel in the Virginia Colony Militia. He commanded the Virginia Militia in subduing the last of the Powhatten Indians around 1640, then quickly acquired a large plantation called Corotomaton, located in Lancaster County, Virginia. At Corotoman John Carter established the beginning of large scale plantation style tobacco cultivation.

There is no way for me to be sure exactly when my African ancestors arrived at Corotoman, but John Carter did own a few Negroes prior to 1650. Since generations of Carter slaves were passed down through inheritance, it is probable that my genealogy is connected the early African people at Corotoman. Also there is the possibility that my genealogy is connected to the first Aficans brought to Jamestown in 1619.

When John Carter died in 1669, ownership of Corotoman passed to his eldest son John Carter II who died around 1693. Robert “King” Carter then became the principle owner of Corotoman and during the course of his life, he expanded his land holdings in the Northern Neck of Virginia to an excess of 300,000 acres.

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Robert Carter II was born at Corotoman in 1704. As a young man, his father, Robert “King” Carter gave him Nomini Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia along with some slaves to work that plantation. Nomini Hall was located on Nomini Creek which flows into the Potomac River. Apparently one of the slaves was my ancestor named Mary. Mary had several children one of her sons named Baptist Billy, born around 1725, is the ancestor of African American Burke family living in Washington County, Ohio since 1854.

Robert Carter II had two children,by his wife, a girl named Elizabeth and a boy named Robert Carter III born at Nomini Hall in 1728. Robert “King” Carter and his son Robert Carter II both died in the year 1732 when Robert Carter III was only four years old.

"Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery," [cited April 19, 1999], available on the World Wide Web @ www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/.

"Chronology on the History of Slavery, 1619 to 1789," [cited March 3, 1999], available from the World Wide Web @ innercity.org/holt/slavechron.html/.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 5th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, s.v. "Slavery."

"First Africans in America" [cited April 19, 1999], available from the World Wide Web @ www.msstate.edu/listarchives/afrigeneas/199902/msg00612.html/.

Thornton, John. "The African Experience of the '20, and odd Negroes' Arriving in Virginia in 1619." The William and Mary Quarterly, July 1998.

Who is Angela?

Angela was one of 350 enslaved Angolans aboard the San Juan Bautista ship as it sailed from Luanda in mid-1619, bound for Veracruz, Mexico. Captives from the Ndongo Kingdom endured a months-long journey chained and packed into the dark, musty hold of the ship, sitting amid cargo in filth, sickness and death. Only 207 survived the Atlantic crossing.

The ship was seized near Veracruz by two English privateer vessels, the White Lion and the Treasurer, who took the healthiest 55 or 60 to split between them and sell. The landing of the first &ldquo20 and odd&rdquo Africans in August 1619 was the primary subject of commemorations all over the nation this year.

Angela was brought to Jamestown a few days later with one or two others. They were among the Africans aboard the Treasurer.

Inauspicious as these landings may have seemed, they proved pivotal to the survival of the Virginia colony. The enslaved Africans came as the colony was recovering from drought and starvation that shrank its members from nearly 300 to 60. Tobacco cultivation was showing signs of becoming the viable, profitable industry that would save them. Skilled labor was needed.

The enslavement of Africans wasn't new to the colonists by 1619 there were many African servants or slaves in England and the Spanish and Portuguese had built empires in South America and the Caribbean based on African slave labor.

Nor was racism. Merchants and nobles had complained to the crown about societal ills they blamed on black people. Despite having African servants herself, Queen Elizabeth issued several proclamations in the late 1500s urging that "blackamoors" be driven from the land.

While white indentured servants from Europe could be had for cheap to help the Virginia colony prosper, enslaved Africans could be had for free.

From these first landings to nearly 250 years later when slavery was abolished, more than 360,000 Africans were taken from their homes to the United States. Angela is part of the origin, both proud and shameful, of the most prosperous nation on earth.

&ldquoHer story is the story of all the Africans who follow,&rdquo said James Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, which conducts archaeological digs at Jamestown.

Valarie&rsquos interpretation of Angela&rsquos life is but one part of the effort to tell her story. The other is a three-year, approximately $550,000 National Parks Service grant to the foundation to examine the area where she lived.

In 1625, six years after her arrival, Angela is listed in the colony muster with the Portuguese spelling of her Christian name &ndash &ldquoAngelo, a Negro Woman&rdquo &ndash living in the household of Captain William Pierce. By then, she had endured the transatlantic ordeal and survived Indian attacks in 1622 that nearly devastated the colony. Angela&rsquos resilience is remarkable since colonists often died within months of arrival, just by dint of weather and disease.

Very few accounts of enslaved people exist in conventional public records &ndash African Americans tracing their roots can turn to plantation records and ship manifests, but often African people are listed as property or cargo. The few known details about Angela &ndash her name, home and country of origin &ndash and her place at the beginning of the American story make her stand out among the millions of enslaved people who were often nameless and faceless. She is a symbolic holy mother for generations of African Americans searching for their heritage.

&ldquoThere is something about having a name and a real person to connect to,&rdquo says historian Linda Heywood, who specializes in Central African history. &ldquoShe is one of the earliest Africans for whom we know something.&rdquo

The First American Slave Owner Was Black

Without a doubt one of the darkest chapters in American history would be that of slavery. Slaves, who were black people from Africa, were bought and sold like cattle, and forced to work their entire life for their owners. There was no limitation on age or gender or the hours they would work. But slavery was vital for the economy in the southern states of the US. However, slavery was not always a part of the colonial American scenery, and was started by a former indentured servant, a black man. You read that correctly, the first American slave owner was black.

Prior to 1655 the colonies in America had indentured servants. This differed greatly to slavery in many areas. Indentured servants usually had a contract of 4 to 7 years of service where they would be provided food, accommodation, clothing in return for labour. Upon the completion of their service most were given land, a cow, arms, clothes and a years supply of free corn. They were essentially not owned by land owners, instead entering a contract with the land owner in return for work and freedom. Slavery on the other hand had no such benefits. Now you are probably wondering what happened in 1655 for all of it to change?

How a black man became the first American slave owner

In 1621 a black man by the name of Anthony Johnson arrived from Africa to Virginia to be an indentured servant, not a slave. He was captured by Arab traders in his native Angola and sold as a slave. By 1635 he had completed his service contract, and by the late 1640’s he had acquired 250 acres of land. As a land owner he started using indentured servants himself, acquiring five. In 1654 one of his servants, a black man by the name of John Casor was due for release from his service. Johnson decided to extend his service and Casor left to work for Robert Parker who was a free white man. That year Johnson sued Parker in Northampton Court, and in 1655 the court ruled that Johnson could hold Cason indefinitely. The court gave sanction for blacks to hold slaves of their own race. This made Anthony Johnson the first American slave owner and John Cason the first slave in the American colonies. It was another 15 years before the colonial assembly granted free whites, blacks and Indians permission to own black slaves.