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 Congress of Ohio state became the first legislative body in the country to enact Black Laws, intended to restrict the rights of free blacks.
Blacks living in Ohio were required to obtain proof of their freedom and to register with the clerk’s office in the county in which they would be living. If a black person was hired without proof of their freedom, the employer would be fined $1,000. Also, any person found hiding a fugitive slave would be fined as well.
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. On January 25, 1807, these laws were toughened and other states followed Ohio’s lead.
In the late 1840s, the Black Laws was yet another political issue. Members of the Free Soil Party wanted the laws repealed and were partially successful in doing so in 1849. The changes in the laws were accomplished in part because Ohio Democrats backed the Black Laws’ repeal in exchange for Free Soil Party support of their candidates in the state legislature.