Before Will and Jada, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, D-Wade and Gabrielle Union, Barack and Michelle Obama, there was Anthony and Mary Johnson. Anthony and Mary Johnson were the first African Americans to own a significant amount of land.
Anthony arrived in Virginia in 1621 aboard the James. It is uncertain whether he was an indentured servant or a slave. Early records list him simply as “Antonio a Negro.” He was put to work on Edward Bennett’s tobacco plantation, Warresquioake. A year later, “Mary a Negro Woman” arrived aboard the Margrett and John, and ended up on that same tobacco plantation. It was fate, for soon, the two were married. Some time later, they gain their freedom and moved to Virginia’s Eastern Shore where they purchased a modest estate and raised livestock. By the 1650s, their estate had grown to 250 acres. Now it was very uncommon for a black person—ex servants to be exact—to own land. For them to own such a significant amount was a definite rarity. They may have owned a few slaves also, which some of you all may not like or approve of, but let’s save the debate on whether or not wealthy, land-owning blacks should have had slaves for a later date.
The Johnsons had four children, two sons who also had significant amounts of land, and two daughters. Sometime in the 1660s, the Johnsons sold their land and moved to Maryland, where they leased a 300 acre farm and lived until their deaths.
Anthony and Mary Johnson proved as early as 1650 that with all factors playing against them, if they put their minds to it, African Americans can still be successful. Now, let’s see a black power couple in a Hollywood blockbuster.