January 17th, 1834

Alabama Legislature Bans Free Black People from Living in the State

On January 17, 1834, the Alabama State Legislature passed Act 44 as part of a series of increasingly restrictive laws governing the behavior of free and enslaved blacks within the state.

In the immediate aftermath of the infamous Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia, Alabama passed a statute in 1833 that made it unlawful for free blacks to settle in Alabama. That statute provided that freed blacks found in Alabama would be given thirty days to vacate the state. After thirty days, the freed slave could be subject to a penalty of thirty-nine lashes and receive an additional twenty-day period to leave the state. After that period had expired, the free person could be sold back into slavery with proceeds of the sale going to the state and to those who participated in apprehending him.

Act 44 expanded on this legislation by specifying a series of procedures that had to be followed for a slave to be freed within the state. One of the requirements was that emancipation for an enslaved person could take effect only outside of Alabama's borders. Further, if an emancipated slave returned to Alabama, he could be lawfully captured and sold back into slavery. In fact, Act 44 required sheriffs and other law enforcement officers to actively attempt to apprehend freed slaves who had entered Alabama for any reason.