Hoax Alert: First Slave Owner in America WAS NOT a Black Man

Fact Check

  • by: Perry Sanders III

It has come to our attention that a hoax from years ago has once again resurfaced on the internet. This particular hoax managed to stir up quite a bit of controversy, as it claims that a black man was the first person to own slaves in the "New World". Although this claim shows little relevance today in 2016, it is our job at Lead Stories to set the record straight.


First off, it should be noted that the man portrayed in the above image isn't Anthony Johnson, but more ironically, Lewis Hayden. It is ironic because Hayden was actually an African-American leader who escaped with his family from slavery in Kentucky. Before the American Civil War, he and his wife aided numerous fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad, often sheltering them at their house.

Secondly, while the case of Anthony Johnson and John Casor was not a matter of the first slave owner, it might have been the first civil case involving slavery. At the very least this is the first known example of a black man owning either indenture servants or slaves in the colonies. Slaves had been here since 1619, and all slaves had been "legal" slaves (and thus their owners "legal" slave owners) since the first law legalizing slavery passed. The first man to be considered a slave by a court of law was John Punch, and his owner Hugh Gwyn considered the first slave owner by a court of law.

In conclusion, a black man did own slaves in Jamestown Va., but he was NOT the first slave owner. The first "20 odd" slaves arrived in 1619 on a Dutch boat and were then sold to Jamestown residents. There were white and black indentured servants then, which differ greatly from slaves. Indentured servitude was not a lifetime deal, but rather a contract to work for a certain number of years in exchange for a safe passage to the Americas.

Furthermore, in 1670, when Johnson died, a court in Virginia ruled that, because "he was a Negro and by consequence an alien," the land owned by Johnson (in Virginia) rightfully belonged to the Crown, meaning that because he was a negro he did not have the legal right to own property to begin with and therefore was not a legal slave owner.

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Thumbnail image for p3.jpgPerry Sanders III is a Philosophy graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and is an editor and social media manager at Lead Stories.

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