you are going to write the lost diary of Anthony Johnson. In 1619, a man called Antonio was sold in Virginia. Over the next few years, he was sold from trader to trader. At some point, Antonio changed his name to the more English friendly name Anthony Johnson. For twenty years, Anthony was a slave. But, somehow, he gained his freedom, married, and became a wealthy plantation owner with his own indentured servants. There are many accounts of Anthony Johnson using his skillful knowledge of the law to defend his rights in court and winning. However, by the 1640s and 1650s, as racial prejudices increased, Johnson’s family left Virginia for neighboring Maryland. Johnson stayed in Virginia until he died in 1667. After his death, a court retroactively decided Anthony had never been a free man and confiscated the property he left to his son. See the verdict:
By virtue of a writt granted to me from [names listed here, which are illegible] John Stringer Escheator for the countys of Northhampton and Accomack to enquire what lands Anthonio Johnson late of Accomack County either in his life tyme. . . a jury of free. . . in the said Accomack County to enquire. . . doth declare that the said Anthony Johnson lately deceased in his life tyme was seized of fifty acres of land now in the possession of Rich. Johnson in the County of Accomack aforesaid and further that the said Anthony Johnson was a negro and by consequence an alien and for that cause the said land doth escheat to this . . . . From the collections of the Library of Congress
We know a surprising amount about the life and death of Anthony Johnson. However, much of this information comes from official records, especially court documents. These are excellent at telling us what happened to Johnson, suggesting his legal and social status, but offer few insights into what he thought and felt. We do not have any records, such as a diary or letters to family members, that would let us into this remarkable man’s personal life. That is, until now.
In this assignment, you are going to write the long lost diary of Anthony Johnson. Specifically, you will write three diary entries spread across Johnson’s entire life. Your diary entries should be no more than a page in length. The diary entries need to have historical accuracy as that is the most important part.
Dated 1 January 1621 – This diary entry is a year after Johnson was sold in Virginia. You should focus on Johnson’s experiences of arriving in the strange world of Jamestown. He does not know where he is, speak the language, and is repeatedly bought and sold.
Dated 1 January 1642 – By now, Johnson is married, has children, and has bought his freedom from his master. This diary entry finds Johnson about to start a new life in Virginia as a freeman. What are his plans and ambitions? What freedom’s can Johnson expect to enjoy as a free African in the 1640s.
Dated 1 January 1662 – In this final entry, you find Johnson trying to understand the growing racial prejudice in Virginia. His extended family has left Virginia for the more tolerant Maryland and he is afraid of what will happen to his property after his death.
historical accuracy is the most important part.