|Mayflower, Library of Congress Photograph Collection|
It Could Happen
Descendants include Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons and members of other faiths. They come from all walks of life, rich, middle class and poor, teachers, preachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, postmen, businessmen and women, secretaries, police officers, pilots, librarians… There are black members, an airline stewardess whose mother is Japanese, Indians who trace their ancestry to both the Pilgrims and the Indians who greeted the Pilgrims on arrival in this country.
There is an historical circumstance, known to few, that connects the children of the Puritans with these Africans of Virginia, in a very singular way. They are our brethren, as being lineal descendants from the Mayflower, the fated womb of which, in her first voyage, sent forth a brood of Pilgrims upon Plymouth Rock, and, in a subsequent one, spawned slaves upon the Southern soil…” Nathaniel Hawthorne by Harold Bloom; page 55.
According to Caleb Johnson, “there were no blacks on the Mayflower."
The first black person known to have visited Plymouth was 30-year old John Pedro, presumably a servant or slave, who stopped at Plymouth in 1622 before heading on to Jamestown, Virginia. There are no records of any blacks living in Plymouth Colony until 1643, when an individual referred to simply as "the blackamore" is listed as one of the men between the ages of 16 and 60 who was capable of carrying arms in the defense of Plymouth (think of it as the first Selective Service list in America). The next mention of a black in Plymouth records seems to be a 1653 court record mentioning a "neager maide servant of John Barnes" who testified on her master's behalf in a lawsuit against John Smith. During the King Philip's War of 1676, a black named Jethro was captured by the Indians, but taken back by the colonists a few days later. In a subsequent court action, he was ordered to be a servant for two more years and then he was to be freed. Plymouth, for the most part, had servants [indentured servants] and not slaves, meaning that they usually got their freedom after turning 25 years of age. (Information from Caleb Johnson’s MayflowerHistory.com. http://www.mayflowerhistory.com/index.php)
In exchange for passage to America, the service of poorer white people was sold to the “planter class” for a predetermined number of years. Upon arriving on the shores, the ship captain (or agent in charge) sold these passengers to the highest bidder based on household and planter’s needs.
Thanks to Heather Wilkinson Rojo, Secretary of New Hampshire Society of Mayflower Descendants, links have been added below. (See comments).
- Visit the Americans All “Of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown and Ellis Island” by Werner Sollors.
- Secret Daughter by June Cross http://www.secretdaughter.com/
- Pilgrims Village Family Sketch: Abraham Pierce http://www.americanancestors.org/pilgrim-families-abraham-pierce/