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The Republic of Texas passes legislation regarding free African Americans

February
05
1840

On this day in 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed the Law of February 5. Though there were relatively few free blacks in the republic, legislators concerned over the status of slavery attempted to restrict further the number of unenslaved blacks. The law declared that all free blacks who had entered Texas after the Texas Declaration of Independence must leave the republic within two years or be declared slaves for the rest of their lives. Those free blacks who were already in the republic before Texas independence would continue to have all the rights of their white neighbors. Provisions were made for free blacks who entered later to petition the Congress for exception. A petition entered by white neighbors on behalf of David and Abner Ashworth was approved on December 12, 1840. They were the only free blacks to enter Texas after the Declaration of Independence who were given Congressional sanction to remain. Some others found ways to cirumvent the law.

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