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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: free negroe &mulattoe law, virginia

Tee wrote:

"Thus, to discuss the free negroe and mullatoe in each state, one must research the free negroe (colored) laws in the specific state of your interest.

Moreover, they had to carry their free documents with them."

Hello Tee,

Good sound advice about researching the Laws of each State. They are different and their application may even differ within any given State at various point in time.

Your example from 1793 in Virginia also brings to mind the question of the timing, 1793 was the year of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 by the United States. How the mandate of that Law was enforced by the existing States at that time and in those (States) that followed has been interesting to follow in reading the various Black Codes.

My home State, Ohio, admitted to the Union in 1803, just ten years following the 1793 Law passed it's own Black Codes in 1804, just one year after becoming a State. A quote from ("The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio") states

" Barely a year after admission into the union, the State of Ohio passed legislation endorsing the so-called "Black Laws." Labeled as "an act to regulate black and mulatto persons," the Black Laws in essence institutionalized racism in the state. Stephen Middleton's The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio is an important study on this subject. Based on extensive primary sources, Middleton's book chronicles the origins, impact, and eventual repeal of the Black Laws. These notorious laws contained residency requirements designed to restrict the immigration of blacks into Ohio. In order to take up residence in the state, blacks were required to show proof of their freedom and also pay a bond to ensure "proper behavior." The language used to describe blacks was consistent with the new laws: blacks were "worse than drones to society, "and a few of them will multiply "like locusts" (50). Black Laws excluded African Americans from voting, owning firearms and property, participating on juries and militia, attending public schools, and testifying in court against a white person. The implications of the laws were far reaching: they justified anti-black violence and established the bedrock foundation of the state's contemporary de facto segregation. Black Laws, Middleton persuasively argues, mirrored Southern slave codes."

In the research of famliy history I have collected a "freedom registration paper" for a 3rd great great-grandfather which was filed in Chamapign County, Ohio following his manumission from slavery in Kentucky, 1813. The paper states who freed him, from where he was freed and where the freedom paper is recorded. I also have an article from the 1881 History of Medina County, Ohio where a brother-in-law of this 3rd great-grandfather was not allow to testify in court against a 'white' man he caught and had arrested for stealing from a neighboring farmer. The Judge upon 'visual inspection' deemed the man to be more Negro than white and refused to allow him to testify. This case took place in 1848.

Yep, Racism in the law is there nationwide, but it's application my vary by State. So, as you say, learn the Laws in your areas (State) of research.

Art Thomas

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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