Black Laws of 1807

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The Ohio legislature passed a series of laws in 1807 to discourage African American migration to the state.

Although slavery was not allowed in Ohio as part of the Constitution of 1803, most African Americans were not treated as equals to white people in the new state. Many Ohioans had come from Southern states that allowed slavery and were not willing to grant rights to African Americans. Other Ohioans were concerned about economic competition from free blacks who might choose to move to the state. As a result of these sentiments, as early as 1804, Ohio legislators had implemented black laws. The 1807 laws were a continuation of these earlier laws.

Among other provisions, these laws required black people to prove that they were not slaves and to find at least two people who would guarantee a surety of five hundred dollars for the African Americans' good behavior. The laws also limited African Americans' rights to marry whites and to gun-ownership, as well as to several other freedoms that whites held. The Black Laws and other policies deterred some African Americans from settling in Ohio.

In the late 1840s, the Black Laws became a political issue once again. Members of the Free Soil Party pushed to have the laws repealed and were partially successful in doing so in 1849. The changes in the laws were accomplished in part because Ohio Democrats backed the Black Laws' repeal in exchange for Free Soil Party support of their candidates in the state legislature.

See Also


  1. Middleton, Stephen. The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.  
  2. Middleton, Stephen. The Black Laws in the Old Northwest: A Documentary History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.