From Ohio History Central
Established in Ohio during the early nineteenth century, the Black Fork Settlement was a predominantly African-American community.
Located in Lawrence County, the Black Fork Settlement was to the south of present-day Oak Hill. A large number of African Americans, including many former slaves, found employment as farmers or in the area's booming iron industry. Many whites refused employment in the iron foundries due to the dangerous working conditions, allowing African Americans to secure employment in this industry.
The Black Fork Settlement grew relatively quickly, with residents establishing a church in 1818. African-American residents also actively assisted runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad.
The Black Fork Settlement remained a vibrant community until the early 1900s. By this time, the settlement lost its identity as a separate community for African Americans. With whites increasingly showing African Americans tolerance, many African Americans began to find acceptance in traditionally white communities. Difficult economic conditions also prompted many African Americans to move away.
Despite the growing opposition to slavery by some whites during the early 1800s, communities, such as the Black Fork Settlement, illustrate the prejudice that existed in Ohio during the years before the American Civil War. Ohio was a state that did not allow slavery. Nevertheless, that did not mean that whites were open to granting African Americans equal rights. Free blacks found that it was difficult to get fair treatment, and they often formed their own communities away from whites for protection.
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