On Tuesday, July 17, 2012, the Supreme Court of Ohio launched an expanded news program – Court News Ohio – that features stories about the Ohio judicial system. This archived page on the Supreme Court’s website only displays news stories that occurred before that date. News stories that occurred on July 17 and thereafter can be found at www.courtnewsohio.gov.

Feb. 2, 2012
Library Display Honors Black History Month

In recognition of Black History Month, the Supreme Court of Ohio Law Library is displaying items from that piece of Ohio's history.Although Ohio was a free state in the 1800s, the state’s treatment of African Americans trying to build a new life was anything but free. In recognition of Black History Month, the Supreme Court of Ohio Law Library, for the first time, is displaying items from that piece of Ohio’s history.

The exhibit features books documenting the history of Ohio’s “Black Laws” that were passed by the state legislature in 1804. The Buckeye State’s General Assembly became the first legislative body in a non-slaveholding state to enact laws intended to restrict the rights of African Americans. Those laws effectively suppressed the civil liberties of African Americans during the time.

African Americans had to produce a certificate of proof of freedom to the clerk of courts as well as pay the state 12.5 cents per family member. African Americans also could not vote, hold public office, serve in state militia, or attend public schools.

They were also forbidden to serve on a jury or testify against Caucasians in court. In 1807 the laws were expanded, making it virtually impossible for African Americans to settle or work in Ohio.

When he was a teen, Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Joseph Perry Bradbury and his family were against slavery, and they operated a station on the Underground Railroad, with Justice Bradbury occasionally assisting as a conductor of fugitive slaves on their way to the north.

The last of the Ohio laws was repealed in 1887.

“Our librarians did a lot of research to find out Ohio’s history in regards to state laws of African Americans trying to make a new life in Ohio,” said Law Library Director Ken Kozlowski. “It’s an interesting part of Ohio’s history that not too many people are familiar with, and we felt it was important to display it in the library.”

Additionally, the display holds brochures and newspaper memorabilia highlighting the Underground Railroad and the Freedom Trail, both with sites throughout Ohio that offered safety and support to slaves traveling north. After the display is removed, some of the pieces may be checked out from the library to examine them closer.