Early cases show differences in treatment between Negro and European indentured servants. In , the General Virginia Court decided the Emmanuel case. Emmanuel was a Negro indentured servant who participated in a plot to escape along with six white servants. Together, they stole corn, powder, and shot guns but were caught before making their escape. The members of the group were each convicted; they were sentenced to a variety of punishments.
Christopher Miller, the leader of the group, was sentenced to wear shackles for one year. White servant John Williams was sentenced to serve the colony for an extra seven years.
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Peter Willcocke was branded, whipped, and was required to serve the colony for an additional seven years. Richard Cookson was required to serve for two additional years. Emmanuel, the Negro, was whipped and branded with an "R" on his cheek. All of the white servants had their terms of servitude increased by some extent, but the court did not extend Emmanuel's time of service. Many historians speculate Emmanuel was already a servant for life. While Emmanuel's status is not defined in the records, his being branded shows a difference in how white servants and black servants were treated.
Though this case suggests that slavery existed, the distinction of lifetime servitude or slavery associated with Africans or people of African descent was not widespread until later. That same year, , "the first definite indication of outright enslavement appears in Virginia.
Hugh Gwyn petitioned the courts, and the three servants were captured, convicted, and sentenced. The white servants had their indentured contracts extended by four years, but the courts gave John Punch a much harsher sentence. The courts decided that "the third being a negro named John Punch shall serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or else where.
It marked racial disparity in the treatment of black servants and their white counterparts, but also the beginning of Virginian courts reducing Negros from a condition of indentured servitude to slavery.
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Leon Higginbotham believes the case is evidence that the colony was developing a policy to force Negro laborers to serve terms of life servitude. In other cases, masters refused to acknowledge the expiration of indentured contracts of blacks, most of whom were illiterate in English.
Anthony Johnson was claimed to have held his indentured servant, John Casor , past his term. Johnson was brought to Jamestown in aboard the James as an indentured servant. By , the Angolan had gained his freedom.
By he was prosperous enough to import five "servants" of his own, for which he was granted acres 1. Casor later claimed to a neighboring farmer, Robert Parker, that he had completed his term. Parker persuaded Johnson to free Casor, who then went to work for Parker. The farmer signed him to a new term of indenture. Johnson challenged Parker in court, saying he had taken his worker. In the lawsuit of Johnson vs. Parker , the court in Northampton County ruled that "seriously consideringe and maturely weighing the premisses, doe fynde that the saide Mr.
Robert Parker most unjustly keepeth the said Negro from Anthony Johnson his master It is therefore the Judgement of the Court and ordered That the said John Casor Negro forthwith returne unto the service of the said master Anthony Johnson, and that Mr. Robert Parker make payment of all charges in the suit. There is evidence in the s that some Virginia Negroes were serving for life.
In the Assembly stated that "in case any English servant shall run away in company with any Negroes who are incapable of making satisfaction by addition of time…[he] shall serve for the time of the said Negroes absence. This phrase gave legal status to the already existing practice of lifetime enslavement of Negroes.
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Statutes were soon passed to define slavery with more conditions than lifetime servitude. In Elizabeth Key won the first freedom suit in Virginia. She challenged being classified as a slave in a complicated case related to a lengthy indenture and an estate. The mixed-race woman, daughter of an African woman and English planter, argued that she was free due to her white English father who had acknowledged her as his daughter, had her baptized as a Christian, and tried to protect her by establishing a guardian and indentureship for her as a girl when he was dying.
After this case, the colonial legislature adopted the principle of partus sequitur ventrem , saying that all children born in the colony would take the status of their mothers, regardless of paternity.
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Thus children born to enslaved mothers would be enslaved, regardless of their ethnicity or paternity. This was contrary to English common law for children of parents who are both English subjects, in which the child takes status from the father. But the law also meant that mixed-race children born to white women were born free, and many families of free African Americans were descended from unions between white women and ethnic African men during the colonial era.
Although Anthony Johnson was a free man, on his death in , his plantation was given to a white colonist, not to Johnson's children. A judge had ruled that he was "not a citizen of the colony" because he was black. John Jr.
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By , the Johnson family had vanished from the historical records. Increasingly toward the end of the 17th century, large numbers of slaves from Africa were brought by Dutch and English slave ships to the Virginia Colony, as well as to Maryland and other southern colonies. On the large tobacco plantations, planters used them as chattel owned property to replace indentured servants who were obligated to work only for a set period of time as field labor, as well as to serve as household and skilled workers.
As slaves, the Africans were not working by mutual agreement, nor for a limited period of time. The labor-intensive tobacco and later cotton plantations of the South were dependent on slavery for profitability. Prior to the adoption of the doctrine partus sequitur ventrem partus in the English colonies in , beginning in Virginia, English common law had held that among English subjects , a child's status was inherited from its father.
The community could require the father to acknowledge illegitimate children and support them. Officials did not know how to treat children in the colony born to parents of whom one was not an English subject. In , Elizabeth Key was the first woman of African descent to bring a freedom suit in the Virginia colony. She sought recognition as a free woman of color , rather than being classified as a Negro African and slave. Her natural father was an Englishman and member of the House of Burgesses. He had acknowledged her, had her baptized as a Christian in the Church of England , and had arranged for her guardianship under an indenture before his death.
Before her guardian returned to England, he sold Key's indenture to another man, who held Key beyond its term. When he died, the estate classified Key and her child also the natural son of an English subject as Negro slaves. Key sued for her freedom and that of her infant son, based on their English ancestry, her Christian status, and the record of indenture. She won her case. The number of white indentured servants declined in the late seventeenth century, as an improving economy in England made workers less willing to brave the colonies.
Against this background, in the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law including the principle of partus , to prevent slaves with English fathers from claiming freedom. Other colonies quickly adopted the principle. It held that "all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother The racial distinction made it easier to identify them. Slavery became a racial caste associated with African descent regardless of children's paternal ancestry. The principle became incorporated into state law when Virginia achieved independence from Great Britain.
The partus doctrine may have originated in the economic needs of the colony which suffered perpetual labor shortages. Conditions were difficult, mortality was high, and the government was having difficulty attracting sufficient numbers of indentured servants. Their illegitimate mixed-race children were now "confined" to slave quarters, unless fathers took specific legal actions on their behalf.
The new law in , meant that white fathers were no longer required to legally acknowledge, support, or emancipate their illegitimate children by slave women. Men could sell their issue or put them to work. Virginia planters developed the commodity crop of tobacco as the chief export. It was a labor-intensive crop, and demand for it in England and Europe led to an increase in the importation of African slaves in the colony.
By the mid-eighteenth century, there were , slaves in the Chesapeake Bay region,  as compared to 50, in the Spanish colony of Cuba, where they worked in urbanized settlements; 60, in British Barbados; and , in the French plantation colony of Saint-Domingue.
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Planters took slaves into the Piedmont but began to develop mixed agriculture by the end of the eighteenth century. Almost as soon as the practice of slavery -- actually, indentured servitude prior to the slave law of -- some individuals began obtaining their freedom. One of the first Africans to be freed was Anthony Johnson, sometime after ; he then purchased the freedom of his family.
Johnson acquired land and his own indentured servants and began growing tobacco. One of those servants, John Casor , would later become the first African man to be declared indentured for life. Most free people of color chose to stay in Virginia, or joined neighbors in migrating to the western frontier of the state and gradually into North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee.
They found frontier conditions more tolerant than the Tidewater societies. Many escaped slaves lived freely as part of the community of Great Dismal Swamp maroons. For years, human rights bodies have urged Ireland to establish a specialised detention facility. But opening such a facility raises questions about whether this will lead to more people being detained. Read profile. But at the same time, the country systematically detains asylum seekers lodging applications at ports of entry.
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