The First Slave Owner in Virginia was Neither Jewish nor European

There has been a growing belief in progressive circles of the 1619 Project ilk, that all Jews are of European descent and all Europeans who came to the Americas owned African slaves. 

It's not based on history. There is no basis for this belief other than a desire to believe it is true. Racial justification is based on an old hatred that alters form while remaining hatred. Jews, as historical records prove, are not of European origin, and most have no lineage in Europe, but that does not stop them from being classified as white by those who are inclined to base things on race.

So let's look at some authentic New World history to set the record straight.

In 1619, shortly after the first laws were passed by representative government in Virginia, the English privateer ship, The White Lion, arrived in Virginia with what was noted as ‘twenty and some odd Angolans.’ The number is believed to be closer to thirty. They had been taken from a Portuguese ship that had intended to take them to Mexico to be sold as slaves.

Upon arriving in Virginia, the Angolans were traded for supplies and became indentured servants. They became this, along with many whites in the colony, as there was no law allowing for slavery. Indentured servitude was the standard for the British, which was harsh and resulted in shortened life spans. Most, regardless of origin, did not survive their contracts, but none were held beyond what the contract allowed without violation of the law.

One of the Angolans was a man named John Gaeween, who changed his name to Gowen. He was the first to be free of the contract since he saved up the money he needed to pay for his freedom.

Following his freedom, he married Margaret Cornish, who was born somewhere in England, but the exact location is not known. What is known is that she was a white woman who violated no law and did not marry in secret. Leftist revisionist historians of today have claimed that the colonists' had an obsession with race. But there are no historical facts to support it since there were no laws based on race.

The Angolan-born John Gowen arrived at a time when no one cared about race in Virginia. Mixed marriages and children had already been happening with the local tribes with no negative societal impact of any kind. The only thing the Virginians cared about was whether a person was Christian.

John Gowan’s occupation, according to geni.com, an invaluable resource for those interested in genealogy, was, “a magistrate, auditing and ruling over smaller filings. In York County, in his later years, John judged Europeans and Africans alike until his death.” In other words, he was a judge who ruled over people equally under the law.

Anthony Johnson, another Angolan-born indentured servant, was brought to Virginia two years after John Gowan and served out the entirety of his contract before becoming a successful and wealthy farmer. Being born in Angola had no bearing on the achievements that would come later in his life.

As the owner of a farm, he had indentured servants work the crops. Among those indentured servants was the African-born, (country of origin unknown), John Casor. After the expiration of the contract, Johnson refused to give Casor his earned freedom.

The case was taken to court and initially ruled in favor of Casor. Casor indentured himself to another farmer and the entire matter should have been settled. The same judge, a year later in 1655, reversed his own ruling to enable Johnson to become the owner of Casor for life without a single law to support the ruling. Slavery had not been added into the laws of Virginia and Casor more than fulfilled his contract.

It was not until 1662 that a law was passed to enslave people based on the status of their mothers, over four decades after the first Africans arrived in Virginia.

WHEREAS some doubts have arrisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or ffree, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shalbe held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother, And that if any christian shall committ ffornication with a negro man or woman, hee or shee so offending shall pay double the ffines imposed by the former act.

With genetic lineage the basis, slavery soon became racial, and eventually led to eugenics. 

Eugenics fell out of fashion following the end of WWII, but never fully let go. Today, rather than have the white race superior to all, which was the belief of the eugenicists of the past, eugenicists today put other races on the top and it is white people who sit at the bottom with the Jews included, in part, through the erroneous belief that all Jews are of European descent. 

Now history has been bastardized with critical race theory, and with it comes an attempt to return to eugenics by another name. Eugenics brought about the rebirth of the Klan in the United States before reaching its full ugliness in Germany. There were increased attacks on Jews and blacks in the United States as institutions, such as segregation, were put into place.

This current round of eugenics is in some ways worse than the original that swept through Europe and the United States. People are branded racists from birth in the new incarnation, with no redemption possible. Those who push the CRT narrative, complete with distorted history and happen to be white, are effectively saying that they are racists with the expectation that everyone is just as racist as they are. It's nonsense. Children are not born racist, and those who become racists learn it over time.

History should be taught as it happened, not as it was perceived to be. The United States is new enough to have many documents still intact from the colonial days. We know when the laws were written which legalized slavery and textbooks should reflect the facts of who the colonialists were from the first generation on to show the changing attitudes that did come to impact every colony.

John Gowen lived a remarkable life in Virginia. His story is being ignored amounts to a sorry erasure of what he did. His accomplishments, including that of becoming a judge, show just how truly little the first settlers cared about race and how much they valued the equality of the law. It also shows just how wrong the current crop of CRT enthusiasts has become.

The case of John Casor is truly egregious. To claim slavery started in 1619 is to take away his story, which should be known. For the first time in the colonies, a man was enslaved without violating a single law. His name should be known, and his story taught in every school in the United States.

Bob Ryan is the pen name of a writer who has an MBA and is a science fiction writer. He has been a weekly blogger at the Times of Israel since 2019. He is an American Christian Zionist who staunchly supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

Image: Picryl / Library of Congress / public domain

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