The first person in American history to own a slave was a black landowner and successful farmer.
Anthony Johnson came to the American colonies in August, 1619 as an indentured servant. In 1623 Johnson had completed his indenture and was recognized as a free negro. In 1651 he acquired 250 acres of land in Virginia, later adding another 250 acres; a sizable holding at the time.
John Casor, a black indentured servant employed by Johnson, became America's first slave after a legal dispute with Robert Parker. Parker was a white colonist who employed Casor while Casor was still indentured to Johnson. Johnson sued Parker in Northampton Court in 1654. The court upheld Johnson's right to hold Casor as a slave on March 8, 1655. The court found:
The court 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.
Five years later, in 1670, the colonial assembly passed legislation permitting blacks and Indians the right to own slaves of their own race, but prohibiting them from owning White slaves.
By 1830 there were 3,775 black families living in the South who owned black slaves. By 1860 there were about 3,000 slaves owned by black households in the city of New Orleans alone.