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100 Years Ago

Black History
Civil War
Gold Rush
Law and Order

Ohio as a Non-Slave State

The year was 1803 and Ohio became the first state carved out of the Northwest Territory where the ownership of slaves was not permitted. Although officially a non-slave state, Ohioans were divided on slavery and racist attitudes were not uncommon, as shown by the Ohio legislature of 1804 in the passage of laws that prohibited blacks from serving on juries and testifying against whites in court cases. It also mandated that no Negro or mulatto will be allowed to settle in the state without a certificate of freedom, and that blacks already living here must register and pay a registration fee of 12 1/2 cents. Whites were forbidden to employ a Negro unless he had a certificate of freedom.

Further evidence of racial prejudice came in 1807, when the state, choosing economic interests with neighboring slave states to be more important than humanitarian considerations, passed a law requiring all Negroes coming into Ohio to post a $500 bond, severely limiting black migration to the new state, although very few attempts were made to enforce it. The last of the Ohio black laws were repealed in 1849.

In 1816, in order to help resolve the "race problem," the American Colonization Society was established with pro-slavery sponsors such as John Calhoun of South Carolina and Henry Clay of Kentucky, to transport blacks voluntarily back to Africa. Very few of them accepted the offer since they now considered America their home. In 1822, the society established the colony of Liberia on Africa’s west coast as a further enhancement for black emigration. By 1850, only about 12,000 had left for a new life in Liberia, which, in 1847, became the first black self-governing republic in Africa.

During this same period from the late 1700s to the early 1800s, many blacks, in spite of society inequities, distinguished themselves. Some of them are Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley for poetry, Newport Gardner in music, Benjamin Banneker in mathematics, and Paul Cuffe and James Forten in business. Notable black ministers were Absalom Jones, George Liele and Andrew Bryan. The black population in Ohio in 1800 was 337; in 1810, 1,890; in 1820, 4,723; in 1830, 9,586; in 1840, 17,342; and in 1850, 25,279.

'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge


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