June 30th, 1829

Cincinnati, Ohio, Enforces Laws to Drive Out Black Population

On June 30, 1829, officials in Cincinnati, Ohio, issued a notice requiring black residents to adhere to laws passed in 1804 and 1807 aimed at preventing “fugitive slaves” and freed blacks from settling in Ohio.

The 1804 law required every black person in Ohio to obtain proof of freedom and to register with the clerk’s office in his or her county of residence. It also prohibited employers from hiring a black person without proof of freedom, imposed a fine on those who hid fugitive slaves, and provided to any person asserting “a legal claim” to a black person a procedure for “retaking and possessing his or her black or mulatto servant.” The 1807 amendments to the law required black people seeking residence in Cincinnati to post $500 bond guaranteed by two white men. In addition to increasing fines for employing a black person without proof of freedom and assisting fugitive slaves, the 1807 amendments prohibited black people from testifying in court against whites.

The 1804 law and 1807 amendment failed to stem the growth of Ohio’s black population and by 1829 blacks represented at least 10 percent of Cincinnati’s population. In another attempt to discourage black residence in Cincinnati, officials posted a notice informing the public that the 1807 law would be “rigidly enforced” and warning against helping any black person in violation of the law. The notice effectively sanctioned mob violence against the black community, stating, “The full cooperation of the public is expected in carrying these laws into full effect.”

Recognizing the notice as a threat, hundreds of black people organized, requested, and were granted asylum in Canada. Those who remained were targeted with mob violence by whites.