b.abt 1610 Africa
Facts and Events
John Punch (fl. 1630s, living 1640) was an African slave who lived in the Colony of Virginia during the seventeenth century. In July 1640, the Virginia Governor's Council sentenced him to serve for the remainder of his life as punishment for running away to Maryland; in contrast, two European men who also ran away with him were sentenced to longer indentures but not total loss of future prospects for freedom. For this reason, historians consider John Punch the "first official slave in the English colonies," and his case as the "ﬁrst legal sanctioning of lifelong slavery in the Chesapeake." Historians also consider this to be one of the first legal distinctions between Europeans and Africans made in the colony, and his case a key milestone in the development of the institution of slavery in the United States.
In July 2012, Ancestry.com published a paper suggesting that Punch was an eleventh-generation maternal grandfather of Barack Obama, on the basis of historic and genealogical research and Y-DNA analysis. Punch's descendants were known by the Bunch or Bunche surname. Punch is believed to be one of the ancestors of the 20th-century American diplomat Ralph Bunche, the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Evidence suggests that John Bunch, b. c. 1630-35, had an African father--African because of the mulatto status of his descendants, and father because John Bunch was free, the status of his mother. "Of the fewer than one hundred African men who resided in Virginia before 1640, John Punch is the only man who bears a surname similar to Bunch. John Punch was an adult male living in the period in which John Bunch I was born in Virginia, and resided in the same county."