On March 8, 1775, “African Slavery In America,” the first known essay advocating the abolition of slavery in America, was published anonymously in the Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser. Thomas Paine is believed to be the author. The first anti-slavery society was formed in Philadelphia weeks after publication, and Paine was a founding member.
Exactly 120 years earlier, a court in Northampton County of the Virginia Colony ruled that John Casor, then working as an indentured servant to Robert Palmer, must be returned to Anthony Johnson as Johnson’s “lawful” slave for life. Ironically, Johnson was one of the original indentured servants brought to Jamestown, had completed his indenture to become a “free Negro” and the first African landowner in the colony. The case marked the first person of African descent to be legally-recognized as a lifelong slave in England’s North American colonies.