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Anthony Johnson versus John Casar, Northampton County Court Case, 1655

Context

Anthony Johnson was a black man and former indentured servant in 17th century Virginia who was able to purchase his freedom. Upon becoming free, Johnson purchased land as well as servants. One such servant, John Casar, claimed that Johnson was illegally holding him well past the expiration of his indenture, whereas Johnson argued that Casar had no indenture and was a slave for life. The dispute was settled in court, with the judgment in Johnson's favor.

Definition: An indentured servant was a laborer who promised to work for an employer for a certain number of years in return for the employer paying their passage to America.

Citation: Northampton County (Va.) Deeds and Wills, etc. 1645-1718. Northampton County (Va.) March 8, 1654/5, 7 (1655–1668), fol. 10., Local government records collection, Northampton County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Standards

VS.4

VUS.2, VUS.3

Suggested Questions

Analyze: How might this case differ from other disputes between masters and servants?

Analyze: Is having an indenture a safeguard against slavery? Why or why not?

In Their Shoes: If you were John Casar, how would you plead your case for freedom?

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