Kate Masur

Petition to Ohio Legislature, Oct 17, 1837

A small group of Black Ohioans met in Columbus in August of 1837 to build a campaign for repeal of the state’s racist “black laws.” They created this petition, which was published in an antislavery newspaper. Readers were invited to cut out the petition from the newspaper and paste it on a piece of paper. Then they could gather signatures on the page and send the petition to the Ohio legislature (known as the General Assembly). This is the entire petition. You can view a picture of the original document here.

This petition was published in The Philanthropist (Cincinnati, OH), Oct. 17, 1837.


To the Honorable, the General Assembly of the State of Ohio,

The undersigned, colored people resident in the State of Ohio, respectfully ask that honorable body to repeal all laws and parts of laws that do restrict them in this State, in the following particulars, namely: 1st. That statute law which was enacted January 5, 1804; and 2nd. The one enacted January 25, 1807.

Our reason for asking the repeal of those laws, are [sic] the following, viz: 1st. Because the restrictions contained in those statutes, deprive us of the right of oath before any court of justice where either party to the same is a white man, thereby preventing us from claiming our lawful rights when any wrong is practiced upon us.

2. They require us to give bond and security in the penal sum of five hundred dollars, as a condition of our residing in this State, thereby making a distinction between us white and persons [sic], not found in justice and equality.

It will be seen by your Honorable Body, that the amount of property already estimated by us, amounts to $500,000, on which there is an annual tax paid into the State and County treasuries of $2,500. We think that when your honorable Body rightly considers the heavy restrictions that those laws lay on us, you will be led to a happy adjustment of them, so as to admit us to derive at least our proportionate dues from the treasury of this State, from which we receive not the least benefit whatever; and, finally, your petitioners feel bound as men, christians, and republicans, to humbly urge this subject upon the attention of your Honorable Body; and from the exercise of this inalienable right of freely expressing our opinions, they can never cease till justice be done.

Discussed in Until Justice Be Done, 104-5.