The Black Laws in the Old Northwest: A Documentary History

By Stephen Middleton | Go to book overview

Old Northwest. As Fehrenbacher puts it, "The head start given to antislavery in the west was soon offset in several ways." 19 The reticence of the federal government and St. Clair's interpretation of the ordinance produced a political climate favorable for the black laws.

Although the majority of white Americans in the Northwest never owned slaves, the enslavement of Africans reinforced the color prejudice of whites. Slavery made racial discrimination inevitable. The American legal culture did not recognize Africans as Americans who had a natural right to life, liberty, and property. The Ordinance of 1787 made such an interpretation possible. Although a few black males enjoyed suffrage until the turn of the century, all prospects for liberty to African Americans disappeared as whites matured in a culture that recognized blacks as slaves. 20 It was only natural that in each state formed from the Old Northwest the political systems did not regard African peoples favorably.

The documents that follow illustrate the development of the black laws, thereby providing a documentary history of racial discrimination in the Old Northwest. They show that the states formed from the region denied African Americans suffrage, public education, benefits of welfare, testimony against a white, freedom to marry a white, and imposed restrictions on militia service, immigration, and employment. By enacting discriminatory statutes, white lawmakers intended to reserve their states for whites only. They went to great lengths to make blacks unwelcomed in their respective states. Yet the African-American population boomed throughout the region in spite of the laws. African Americans considered racial discrimination more tolerable than slavery.

In time, African Americans and their allies challenged the legal policy of states in the Northwest. Persons of mixed ancestry first won consideration for civil rights in the courts. Judges developed a visible admixture rule, declaring that persons who "looked white" should receive the privileges of white people. Next, African Americans tried to desegregate common schools, but legislatures rewarded them with a segregated school system. Once the states endorsed educational opportunities for blacks, a few integrated schools emerged in areas where too few blacks lived to form a separate school. By the end of the 1870s, each state adopted ineffective civil rights laws, which disappeared under the "separate but equal" ruling of the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson ( 1896).


NOTES
1.
For a discussion of the western land problem see Merril Jensen, The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution 1774-1781 ( Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976).

-xxvii-

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The Black Laws in the Old Northwest: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Ordinance of 1787, Article 6 xix
  • Introduction xxi
  • Notes xxvii
  • Part One- OHIO, March 1, 1803 1
  • I- Declaration of Rights 9
  • II- Enumeration and Election 11
  • III- Militia Policy 13
  • V- Colonization 19
  • VI- Kidnapping Law 25
  • VII- Public Education 33
  • VIII- Jury Law 47
  • IX- Reports- The Black Laws 49
  • X- Runaway Slaves 111
  • XI- Relief for the Poor 131
  • XII- Miscegenation of the Races 135
  • XIII- Civil Rights 137
  • Summary of Cases 143
  • Select Annotated Cases 147
  • Suggested Readings 155
  • Part Two- INDIANA, December 11, 1816 157
  • I- Declaration of Rights 163
  • II- Slavery 167
  • III- Indentured Servants and Laborers 185
  • IV- Suffrage and Election 195
  • V - Militia Policy 197
  • VI - Immigration and Residency 199
  • VII- Miscegenation Laws 207
  • VIII- Taxation and Enumeration 213
  • IX- Colonization 217
  • X- Kidnapping 227
  • XI- Fugitive Slaves 241
  • XII- Testimony and Witness 245
  • XIII- Public Education 251
  • XIV- Civil and Legal Rights 255
  • Summary of Cases 259
  • Select Annotated Cases 261
  • Suggested Readings 267
  • Part Three - ILLINOIS, December 3, 1818 269
  • Notes 274
  • I - Declaration of Rights 275
  • II- Militia Policy 279
  • III- Suffrage and Elections 281
  • IV- Servants and Slaves 285
  • V- Immigration and Residency 291
  • VI- Kidnapping 309
  • VII- Testimony and Witness 315
  • VIII- Runaway Slaves and Servants 319
  • X- Civil and Legal Rights 329
  • Summary of Cases 334
  • Select Annotated Cases 335
  • Suggested Readings 341
  • Part Four- MICHIGAN, January 26, 1837 343
  • I- Declaration of Rights 349
  • II - Kidnapping 353
  • III - The Slavery Controversy 359
  • IV- The Militia 363
  • V- Public Education 365
  • VI- Miscegenation of the Races 367
  • VII- Civil and Legal Rights 369
  • Summary of Cases 373
  • Select Annotated Cases 375
  • Suggested Readings 377
  • Part Five- WISCONSIN, May 29, 1848 379
  • Note 383
  • I- Declaration of Rights 385
  • II- Suffrage and Elections 387
  • III- Runaway Slaves 391
  • IV- Personal Liberty and Legal Rights 403
  • Summary of Cases 415
  • Select Annotated Cases 417
  • Suggested Readings 419
  • Index 421
  • About the Author 429
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