Exclusion of Free Blacks

In some Northern states after emancipation, blacks were legally allowed to vote, marry white people, file lawsuits or sit on juries. But even where the right was extended by law, it often did not happen.

In colonial times, Northern freemen, like slaves, were required to carry passes when travelling and they were forbidden to own property in some places. Depending on the state, free blacks were subject to many restrictions.

Having set controls on black residents, the Northern states passed more laws to make sure no additional blacks moved within their boundaries. Slaves could not be brought into the Northwest Territories, under the ordinance of 1787, but slaves already there were to continue in bondage.

After the states started to emerge from the old territories, most of them barred blacks or permitted them only if they could prove their freedom and post bond. Ohio enacted Black Laws in 1804 and 1807 that compelled blacks entering the state to post bond of $500 guaranteeing good behavior and to produce a court paper as proof that they were free.

In 1916 and 1818, Indiana and Illinois abolished slavery respectively from their constitutions. With the end of civil war, 19 out of 24 Northern states did not allow blacks to vote nor serve on juries before 1860. They could not give testimony in 10 states and 2 restricted their assembly. Several western states had restricted the blacks from entering the state.

Source: Exclusion of Free Blacks
© Douglas Harper

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