John Casor, in 1654 made history when living in the Virginia Colony he became the first person to be declared a slave for life in the thirteen colonies.
At that time only about 300 people originating from Africa were living in Virginia Colony, this made up about 1% of the total population of an estimated 30,000. The first arrivals were in Jamestown in 1619 and these were indentured servants. After working their loans for passage to Virginia they were each granted 50 acres of land when freed to raise crops or grow tobacco.
Anthony Johnson was one of the original 20 that arrived in August 1619, within four years he had received his freedom and was declared a ‘free negro.’ By the late 1640’s he and his family moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and began raising livestock. By 1651 he had bought his land and had court records to show he held 250 acres and was able to support five people of his own whom he imported.
One of those was John Casor, Casor claimed he was to work for seven or eight years as an indentured servant and on achieving this asked Johnson for his indenture to release him and Johnson claimed there wasn’t one. Casor demanded his freedom and Johnson’s son in law, wife and sons said that Casor should be free. John Casor then went to work for a white colonist Robert Parker. Parker and his brother later stated that they knew Casor had an indenture and should have been freed.
Anthony Johnson then took Robert Parker to court claiming Casor was his slave and not his indentured servant and that he was his slave for life. The court ruled in favour of Johnson and history was made when Casor was a slave for life. Added to this Parker was forced to pay the legal costs for allegedly stealing Casor from Johnson. Casor had to return to the property of Johnson as an owned slave.
In 1655 Anthony Johnson and his wife as well as their son and his wife all moved to Maryland, Casor went with them and remained his slave until he died. By the end of that century the number of slaves from the African continent increased in all the colonies. John Casor was just the first of those branded as a slave for life.