The Black Laws in the Old Northwest: A Documentary History

By Stephen Middleton | Go to book overview
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VII
Testimony and Witness

Illinois law first published the testimony of a black or mulatto against a white in 1803. The legislature designated as mulatto any person having one-fourth "Negro blood" or any person having at least one-half "Indian blood." In a state where they were denied testimony against a white, blacks had little chance of defending themselves in a dispute involving a white. The law left African Americans powerless; such to be sure, was one aim of the black laws. Illinois lawmakers assumed that if they deprived African- American residents of their legal and civil rights, they would leave the state. Moreover, the legislators assumed that their oppressive laws would discourage runaway slaves from seeking refuge in Illinois.


NUMBER 1

Who may be witnesses in criminal cases. Approved March 3, 1845, Revised Statutes.

Section 16. No black or mulatto person or Indian shall be permitted to give evidence in favor or against any white person whatsoever. Every person who shall have one-fourth part or more of negro blood shall be deemed a mulatto; and every person who shall have one-half Indian blood shall be deemed an Indian.

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