Slavery is an unfortunate part of America’s history and was a reality, especially in the southern states, until the end of the Civil War. Many slaves attempted to escape and travel north in search of their freedom. In response to the increasing number of run-away slaves, slave owners attempted to persuade politicians of the need for fugitive slave laws. An attempt to pass such laws occurred as early as 1785. By 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act had become national law. Slave hunting was a profitable business during this period as a means of enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act. These slave hunters were sometimes known to kidnap free blacks and bring them to southern states where they would be sold into bondage.
In 1804, the Ohio General Assembly enacted the Ohio Black Codes to govern black and mulatto people residing in the state. Section 1 of these codes read,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, That from and after the first day of June next. No black or mulatto person shall be permitted to settle or reside in this state, unless he or she shall first produce a fair certificate from some court within the United States, of his or her actual freedom, which certificate shall be attested by the clerk of said court, and the seal thereof annexed thereto, by said clerk. (sic)
According to these Codes, free blacks and mulattos were required to have their names registered with their local court. This registration process required providing emancipation papers or witnesses that could corroborate a person’s “free” status.
Manumission papers, sometimes called freedom papers, were records that documented the free status of African Americans. It was very important for African Americans to be able to produce these papers upon request. Recording these documents with local courts served as a legal affidavit of their “free” status.
Emancipation Record: Record of Certificates of the Freedom of Negroes-These records date from 1805 to 1845. African Americans who had been emancipated or born free filed these records with the Greene County Common Pleas Court as proof of their “free” status.
Emancipation Deed Records-These records date from 1855 to 1861 and serve as a record of individuals and sometimes entire families, who were being released from the bondage of slavery. Since slaves were considered property, these emancipation papers were filed with the Recorder’s Office and are filed along with other property deeds.
All records were transcribed exactly as they appear in the official record. Information in brackets [ ], was added as an explanation or an interpretation of the text.