Mathias de Sousa
Mathias de Sousa is widely considered to be the
first colonist of African descent to land in the State of Maryland. He
arrived in 1633 on a ship named The Ark as an indentured servant
of Father Andrew White, a Jesuit priest. It is hard to say exactly how
de Sousa became an indenture of Father White, and not much was written about
de Sousa by people from his time. Patent records from the Land Office of
the colony list de Sousa as a mulato. Scholars believe that, given his last
name, he was of an Afro-Portuguese background, and he may have been Catholic
because of his affiliation with Father White. Little is known about the details
of de Sousa's life, but there are records available to help us piece together
something about his time in Maryland. It is believed that he served his
indenture until 1639 and became a free man. He was a planter and a trader,
but it doesn't appear either occupation led to a lucrative lifestyle.
On March 23, 1641, he was recorded in attendance of the proceedings of
the General Assembly. By 1642, de Sousa found himself in the indenture
of John Lewger and John Hollis due to debts he incurred over the years.
Not much is known about de Sousa after 1642 because there no records that
follow his life after that year. However, Mathias de Sousa is one the earliest
notable persons of African descent to leave his imprint on Maryland's history.
Copyright February 03, 2014 Maryland State Archives