Two of the first Africans to be brought to North America in 1619 were simply called Anthony and Isabella. They married and in 1624, gave birth to the first black child born in English America. They named him William Tucker in honor of a Virginia planter.
After 1619, all Africans brought into the colonies were sold as slaves.
As research historian Martha W. McCartney writes in “Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary”:
“On February 16, 1624, Anthony, an African, was living in Elizabeth City in Captain William Tucker’s household. He was still there in early 1625, at which time he was identified as a servant. Listed with Anthony in 1624 was his wife, an African woman servant named Isabella (Isabell). By early 1625 Anthony and Isabella had a child, William, and all three had been baptized.”
William was born five or six years after the ship landed. He was the first black child in English North America identified by name, but other black children are listed in the Tucker household, Davidson said. Their birthdates are not known. Historians believe William was born in 1624 because his name, which is missing from a list of the “living and the dead” made the year before, shows up on a muster list of the Tucker household in 1624-25, Davidson said.
One interesting additional piece of information can be learned from the records noting that William was baptized.
“That probably indicates that he, at least, wasn’t a slave,” Davidson said, because at that time, the colonists were opposed to enslaving Christians.
After that, the story of William is riddled with blanks. Thelma Williams has relied on family history to fill them in. Though most traditional historians feel uneasy about depending on such an approach, one historian who specializes in oral history says there is a lot to be learned from accounts handed down by generations.