[Source : http://classweb.uchicago.edu/Civilization/American/Supp135/AfricansVA.html]

Africans in Freedom and Bondage, VA 17th Century

The Arrival of the Africans in Virginia, 1619

I. A Relation from Master John Rolfe

Edward Arber and A. G. Bradley, eds., Travels and Works of CaptainJohn Smith,
President of Virginia, and Admiral of New England,1580-1631 (Edinburgh, 1910), II,
541.. . . About the last of August [1619] came in a dutch man of warre that sold us twenty
Negars: and Lapazous King of Patawomeck, came to James towne, to desire two ships to
come trade in his River, for amore plentifull yeere of Corne had not beene in a long time,
yet very contagious, and by the trechery of one Poule, in a manner turned heathen, wee
were very jealous the Salvages would surprise us.

The Free Negro
2. Anthony Johnson's Servant, 1655
Northampton County Order Book, 1655-1668, fol. 10.
The deposition of Captain Samuel Goldsmith taken (in open court) 8thof March Sayth,
That beinge at the howse of Anthony Johnson Negro(about the beginninge of November
last to receive a hogshead of tobacco) a Negro called John Casar came to this Deponent,
and told him thathee came into Virginia for seaven or Eight yeares (per Indenture)
Andthat hee had demanded his freedome of his master Anthony Johnson; And further
said that Johnson had kept him his servant seaven yeares longerthan hee ought, And
desired that this deponent would see that heemight have noe wronge, whereupon your
Deponent demanded of Anthony Johnson his Indenture, hee answered, hee never sawe
any; The said Negro (John Casor) replyed, hee came for a certayne tyme and had
anIndenture Anthony Johnson said hee never did see any But that hee hadhim for his life,
Further this deponent saith That mr. Robert Parkerand George Parker they knew that the
said Negro had an Indenture ( anon Mr. Carye hundred on the other side of the Baye )
And the said Anthony Johnson did not tell the negro goe free The said John Casor would
recover most of his Cowes of him; Then Anthony Johnson ( as thisdeponent did suppose)
was in a feare. Upon this his Sonne in lawe, hiswife and his 2 sonnes perswaded the said
Anthony Johnson to sett the said John Casor free. more saith not Samuel Goldsmith This
daye Anthony Johnson Negro made his complaint to the Court against mr. Robert Parker
and declared that hee deteyneth his servant John Casor negro ( under pretence that the
said Negro is a free man. )The Court seriously consideringe and maturely weighinge the
premisses,doe fynde that the said Mr. Robert Parker most unjustly keepeth the said Negro
from Anthony Johnson his master as appeareth by the deposition of Captain Samuel
Goldsmith and many probable circumstances. It is therefore the Judgment of the Court
and ordered That the said John Casor Negro forthwith returne unto the service of his said
master Anthony Johnson, And that mr. Robert Parker make payment of all chargein the

3. Francis Paine's Will, 1673
Northampton County Order Book, 1664-1674, 220-221.
In the Name of god Amen, I Francis Payne of Northampton County in Vir-ginia being
sick of body but of perfect knowledge and understanding and being willinge to ease my
minde of all worldly care Doe make this my last will and Testament as follows Imprimis I
bequeath my soule to my loveing Father my creator and to Jesus Christ who by his blood
and passion suffered for my sins and all the world trustinge through his meritt to injoy
that heavenly portion prepared for mee and all true beleevers And as for my body I
bequeth it unto the ground from whence it came there to receive a Christian buriall And
as for my worldly Estate I doe give and bequeathitt unto my loveing wife Agnes Payne
my whole Estate reall and persnall moveables and immoveables makinge her my
Indubitable Executrix ofthis my last will and Testament. And Doe here declare that by
vertueof these presents all former wills by mee made and signed are rebuked and made
void and this is to bee my last will and Testament. And desire that my debts may in the
first place bee paid. In Testimony whereof I have subscribed my hand and putt my seale
this 9th day ofMay Anno Domini 1673.Unto each of our god children a Cow Calfe a
peece when they attaine tolawfull age. but as for [Deura] Driggins he is to have nothinge
by this will Francis X paine his marke Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of us
Nathaniel Wilkinsthe marke of Elizabeth X PettittThe 29th day of September 1673. This
day the last will and Testamentof Francis Paine Negro was proved in open Court by the
Corporall oath of Nathaniel Wilkins and allowed of and ordered to be Recorded
(Pro-vided that Elizabeth Pettitt the other evidence appeare at the nextCourt and
Confirme the probate thereof if livinge and of ability toowne then or otherwise as sure as
shee can)Teste Daniel Neech Deputy ClerkRecorded the 4th of October 1673. Daniel
Deputy Clerk4.

Philip Mongom is Accused of Stealing Hogs, 1659/60
Northampton County Order Book, 1657-1664, fol. 68.
Upon Sum presumptious Susspittion that phillip Mongom negro hath Stollhoggs as by the
Relation of John Braddum and William Planner doth appeare, It is ordered that hee put in
Security for his good behaviourfor the future and pay Costs of Suit. It is Ordered that
phillip Mongom negro shall pay for his presumptious actions used to the Courtin
throughing [i.e., throwing] hoggs eares on the Court table onehundred pounds of tobacco
and Caske with Court Charges.5.

John Francisco Maintains a Bastard Child, 1668
Northampton County Order Book, 1664-1674, fol. 53.Whereas John Franciscoe Negro
have moved the Court that hee might havethe Negro child of Thomas Driggins Negro,
slave to Lt. Col. [William]Kendall and John Eyre, with the Consent of the same Lt. Col.
Kendallfor himselfe and John Eyre; Itt is ordered that the said John Francis-coe in whose
Custody the said Child now is, shall Keepe it in hisCustody, and have the tuition and Care
of it untill it attaynes theage of one and Twenty yeares and then to se~t it free for Ever;
fromthe Claime of any person to make it a slave.

The Paths to Freedom.
Mihill Gowen ls Set Free by His Master's Will, 1657/58
York Counry Order Book, 1657-1662 (transcript), 45.
Bee it knowne unto all Christian people that whereas Mihill GowenNegro of late Servant
to my Brother Christopher Stafford deceased by his last will and Testament having date
the eighteenth of January 1654 had his freedome given unto him Therefore know all
whom itt may con-cerne that I Anne Barnehouse for divers good causes mee
thereuntoreceiving doth absolutely quitt and discharge the said Mihill Gowenfrom any
service and forever sett him free from any claime of serviceeither by mee or any on my
behalfe as any part of parcell of my Estatethat may be Claimed by mee the said Anne
Barnehouse my heires Execu-tors or Assignes as witness my hand this 25th of October
1657Bee it knowne unto all Christian people that I Anne Barnhouse of Mar-tins hundred
widdow for divers good causes and Considerations meethereunto receiving hath given
unto Mihill Gowen Negro hee being attthis time Servant unto Robert Stafford a male
child borne of the 2sthof August in the yeare of Our Lord God 1655 of the body of my
negroRosa being baptised by Mr. Edward Johnson the 2nd of September 1655 and named
William and I the said Anne Barnhouse doth bind myselfe myheyres Executors and
Administrators and Assignes never to trouble ormolest the said Mihill Gowen or his
Sonne William or demand my Serviceof the said Mihill or his said Sonne William...14.

Antonio to Gain Freedom after Ten Years' Service, 1678
Middlesex Counry Order Book, 1673-1680, fol. 126.
Know all men Whome this may Concerne That I John Indecott Cooper In-habitant In
Boston in New England have sold unto Richard Medlcoff, A Spanish Mulatto by name
Antonio I haveing full power to Sell him for his life time But at the request of William
Taylor I doe Sell him But for Tenn Yeares from the day that he shall Disimbarke In
Virginia theTenn Yeares to begin and at the expiration of the Said Tenn Yeares thesaid
Mulatto Anthony to be a free man to Wherever he pleaseth I doe acknowledge to have
Record[ed] Full Satisfaction of the Said Medlcofffor the Said Mulatto . . . I Anthonio Doe
Consent to the above premis-es as witness my marke in presence of Anthony Low and
William Taylorthe day above, March the sth 1677/8.15. John and Isabell Daule Purchase
Their Freedom, 1670Surry County Deeds and Wills, 1657-1672, 349. Whereas John
Daule and Isabell his wife are the Negro Sarvants of Mr.Arthur Jordan, and have this
present day agreed for a vallueable Con-sideration to the end they might be acquitted of
Such Service as theyowe Me,and May Now enter upon the Makeinge of a Crop for their
owneuse be itt Knowne therefore to all men by these presents that I thesaid Arthur Jordan
doe hereby release acquit and discharge the saidJohn and Isabell from all Service dues
and demands what soe ever whichI the said Arthur Jordan my Executors or
Administrators shall or mayor ought to have or claime of them or either of them from the
begin-ning of the world to the date here of witness my hand and seale thetenth day of
March Anno Domini 1669 [1670]Arthur Jordan Seale red wax Sealed and delivered in
presence Acknowledged in Courte by theof George Jordan George Procter
Subscriber Arthur Jordan 3dWilliam S[h]erwood May and recorded 13th

The Courts as an Avenue to Freedom
A. THE CASE OF ELIZABETH KEY, 1655/56Northumberland County Record Books,
1652-1658, fols. 66-67, 85,1658-1660, fol. 28; Northumberland Counry Order Book,
1652-1665, fols.40, 46, 49.
The Court doth order that Col. Thomas Speke one of the overseers ofthe Estate of Col.
John Mottrom deceased shall have an Appeale to theQuarter Court next att James Citty in
a Cause depending betweene thesaid overseers and Elizabeth a Moletto hee the said Col.
Speke givingsuch caution as to Law doth belong.Wee whose names are underwritten
being impannelled upon a Jury to trya difference between Elizabeth pretended Slave to
the Estate of Col.John Mottrom deceased and the overseers of the said Estate doe
findethat the said Elizabeth ought to be free as by severall oathes mightappeare which we
desire might be Recorded and that the charges ofCourt be paid out of the said Estate.
[names of the jury omitted]Memorandum it is Conditioned and agreed by and betwixt
Thomas Key onthe one part and Humphrey Higginson on the other part [word
missing]that the said Thomas Key hath put unto the said Humphrey one NegroGirle by
name Elizabeth for and during the [term?] of nine yearesaftel the date hereof provided
that the [said?] Humphrey doe find andallow the said Elizabeth meate drinke {and?]
apparrell during the saidtearme And allso the said Thomas Key that if that if [sic] the
saidHumphrey doe dye before the end of the said time abovespecified thatthen the said
Girl be free from the said Humphrey Higginson and hisassignes Allsoe if the said
Humphrey Higginson doe goe for Englandwith an Intention to live and remaine there that
then hee shall carry[the?] said Girle with him and to pay for her passage and likewisethat
he put not of of[f] the said Girle to any man but tc keepe herhimselfe In witness whereof I
the said Humphrey Higginson Sealed anddelivered in the presence of us Robert Booth
Francis Miryman 20thJanuary 1655 this writing was Recorded.Mr. Nicholas Jurnew aged
53 yeares or thereabouts sworne and ExaminedSayth That about 16 or 17 yeares past this
deponent heard a flyingreport at Yorke that Elizabeth a Negro Servant to the Estate of
Col.John Mottrom deceased was the Childe of Mr. Kaye but the said Mr. Kayesaid that a
Turke of Capt. Mathewes was Father to the Girle and fur-ther this deponent sayth not
signed Nicholas Jurnew20th January 1655 Jurat in Curia [i.e., "sworn in court"]Anthony
Lenton aged 41 yeares or thereabouts sworne and Examined Sayththat about 19 yeares
past this deponent was a servant to Mr. HumphreyHigginson and at that time one
Elizabeth a Molletto nowe servant tothe Estate of Col. John Mottrom deceased was then a
servant to thesaid mr. Higginson and as the Neighbours reported was bought of
mrHigginson with the said servant both himself and his Wife intended avoyage for
England and at the nine yeares end ( as the Neighboursreported ) the said Mr Higginson
was bound to carry the said servantfor England unto the said mr. Kaye, but before the said
mr Kaye wenthis Voyage hee Dyed about Kecotan, and as the Nei,ghbours reported
thesaid mr. Higginson said that at the nine yeares end hee would carrythe said Molletto
for England and give her a portion and lett hershift for her selfe And it was a Common
report amongst the Neighboursthat the said Molletto was mr Kays Child begott by him
and furtherthis deponent sayth not the marke of Anthony Lenton 20th January 1655Jurat
in CurlaMrs. Elizabeth Newman aged 80 yeares or thereabouts sworne and exam-ined
Sayth that it was a common Fame in Virginia that Elizabeth aMolletto nowe servant to
the Estate of Col. John Mottrom deceased wasthe Daughter of mr. Kay; and the said Kaye
was brought to Blunt-pointCourt and there fined for getting his Negro woman with
Childe whichsaid Negroe was the Mother of the said Molletto and the said fine wasfor
getting the Negro with Childe which Childe was the said Elizabethand further this
deponent sayth not the marke of Elizabeth Newman 20thJanuary 1655 Jurat in CuriaJohn
Bayles aged 33 yeares or thereabouts sworne and Examined SaythThat at the House of
Col. John Mottrom Black Besse was tearmed to bemr Kayes Bastard and John Keye
calling her Black Bess mrs. SpekeChecked him and said Sirra you must call her Sister for
shee is yourSister and the said John Keye did call her Sister and further thisdeponent
Sayth not the marke of John Bayles 20th January 1655 Jurat inCuriaThe deposition of
Alice Larrett aged 38 yeares or thereabouts Sworneand Examined Sayth that Elizabeth
which is at Col. Mottroms is twentyfive yeares of age or thereabouts and that I saw her
mother goe to bedto her Master many times and that I heard her mother Say that shee
wasmr. Keyes daughter and further Sayth not the marke of Alice LarrettSworne before
mr. Nicholas Morris Igth Jan. 1655. 20th January thisdeposition was RecordedAnne
Clark aged 39 or thereabouts Sworne and Examined Sayth that sheethis deponent was
present when a Condition was made betweene mr. Hum-phrey Higginson and mr. Kaye
for a servant called Besse a Molletto andthisdeponents Husband William Reynolds nowe
deceased was a witness butwhether the said Besse after the Expiration of her time from
mr Hig-ginson was to be free from mr Kaye this deponent cannot tell and mrHigginson
promised to use her as well as if shee were his own Childand further this deponent Sayth
not Signum Ann Clark 20th January1655. Jurat in Curia Elizabeth Newman aged 80
yeares or thereabouts Sworne and ExaminedSayth that shee this deponent brought
Elizabeth a Molletto, Servant tothe Estate of Col. John Mottrom deceased to bed of two
Children andshee layd them both to William Grinsted and further this DeponentSayth not
Elizabeth Newman her marke 20th January 1655 Jurat in CuriaA Report of a Comittee
from an Assembly Concerning the freedome ofElizabeth KeyIt appeareth to us that shee
is the daughter of Thomas Key by severallEvidences and by a fine imposed upon the said
Thomas for getting hermother with Child of the said Thomas That she hath bin by verdict
of aJury impannelled 20th January 1655 in the County of Northumberlandfound to be free
by severall oathes which the Jury desired might beRecorded That by the Comon Law the
Child of a Woman slave begott by afreeman ought to bee free That shee hath bin long
since ChristenedCol. Higginson being her God father and that by report shee is able
togive a very good account of her fayth That Thomas Key sould her onelyfor nine yeares
to Col. Higginson with severall conditions to use hermore Respectfully then a Comon
servant or slave That in case Col.Higginson had gone for England within nine yeares hee
was bound tocarry her with him and pay her passage and not to dispose of her toany other
For theise Reasons wee conceive the said Elizabeth ought tobee free and that her last
Master should give her Corne and Cloathesand give her satisfaction for the time shee hath
served longer thenShee ought to have done. But forasmuch as noe man appeared against
thesaid Elizabeths petition wee thinke not fitt a determinative judgementshould passe but
that the County or Quarter Court where it shall benext tried to take notice of this to be the
sence of the Burgesses ofthis present Assembly and that unless [original torn] shall
appear tobe executed and reasons [original torn] opposite part Judgement by thesaid
Court be given [accordingly?]Charles Norwood Clerk AssemblyJames Gaylord hath
deposed that this is a true coppyJames Gaylord21th July 1656 Jurat in Curia 21th July
1656 This writeing was recordedAtt a Grand Assembly held at James Citty 20th of March
1655 Orderedthat the whole business of Elizabeth Key [and?] the report of theComittee
thereupon be returned [to the?] County Court where the saidElizabeth Key livethThis is a
true copy from the book of Records of the Order granted thelast AssemblyTeste Robert
Booth21th July 1656 This Order of Assembly was RecordedUpon the petition of George
Colclough one of the overseers of Col.Mottrom his Estate that the cause concerning a
Negro wench named BlackBesse should be heard before the Governor and Councell
Whereof inregard of the Order of the late Assembly referring the said caise tothe
Governor and Councell at least upon Appeale made to them These aretherefore in his
Highness the Lord Protector his name to will andrequire the Commissioners of the
County of Northumberland to Surceasefrom any further proceedings on the said Cause
and to give notice tothe parties interested therein to appear before the Governor at thenext
Quarter Court on the fourth day for a determination thereof.Given under my hand this 7th
of June 1656. Edward Digges 21th 1656This Writeing was Recorded.Whereas mr.
George Colclough and mr. William Presly overseers of theEstate of Colonell John
Mottrom deceased were Summoned to theis Courtat the suite of Elizabeth Kaye both
Plaintiffe and Defendant beingpresent and noe cause of action at present appearing The
Court doththerefore order that the said Elizabeth Kaye shall be non-suited andthat
William Grinsted Atturney of the said Elizabeth shall by thetenth of November next pay
fifty pounds of tobacco to the said over-seers for an non-suite with Court charges else
Execution. Whereas thewhole business concerning Elizabeth Key by Order of Assembly
was Re-ferred to this County Court. According to the Report of a Comittee atan
Assembly held at the same time which upon the Records of this Coun-ty appears, It is the
judgment of this Court that the Said ElizabethKey ought to be free and forthwith to have
Corne Clothes and Satisfac-tion according to the said Report of the Comittee. Mr.
William Thomasdissents from this judgment.These are to Certifie whome it may
concerne that William Greensted andElizabeth Key intends [sic] to be joyned in the Holy
Estate of Matri-mony. If any one can shew any Lawfull cause why they may not be
joynedtogether lett them Speake or ever after hold their tongues SignumWilliam
Greensted Signum Elizabeth Key 21th July 1656 this Certificate was Published in open
Court and isRecorded
I Capt. Richard Wright administrator of the Estate of Col. JohnMottrom deceased doe
assigne and transfer unto William Greensted amaid servant formerly belonging unto the
Estate of the said Col. Mott-rom commonly called Elizabeth Key being nowe Wife unto
the said Green-sted and doe warrant the said Elizabeth and doe bind my Selfe to savehere
[i.e., her] and the said Greensted from any molestation or trou-ble that shall or futurely
arise from or by any person or persons thatshall pretend or claime any title or interest to
any manor of service[original torn] from the said Elizabeth witness [my ha]nd this 21th
ofJuly 1659Test William Th [omas] Richard Wright James Aust[en]B.

County Order Book, 1666-1675, fol. 17.
Whereas Fernando a Negro sued Capt. [John] Warner for his freedomepretending hee was
a Christian and had been severall yeares in Englandand therefore ought to serve noe
longer than any other servant thatcame out of England accordinge to the custome of the
Country and alsoePresented severall papers in Portugell or some other language whichthe
Court could not understand which he alledged were papers Fromseverall Governors
where hee had lived a freeman and where hee washome. Wherefore the Court could find
noe Cause wherefore he should befree but Judge him a slave for his life time, From which
Judgement thesaid Negro hath appealled to the fifth day of the next Generall Court.[It is
not possible to follow this case further owing to the destruc-tion of the General Court
records for this period.]