Aaron Ashworth, free Black colonist and landowner, was born in South Carolina about 1803. In 1833 he followed his brother William Ashworth to Lorenzo de Zavala's colony in East Texas, leaving his home in what is now Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Other relatives named Ashworth also came to the Zavala colony and were affected when the General Council passed an ordinance forbidding the immigration of free Blacks into Texas. The law was not enforced against any of the Ashworths. When the Texas Congress passed an act on February 5, 1840, ordering all free Blacks to leave the republic within two years or be sold into slavery, White support for the Ashworths came in the form of three petitions requesting their exemption from the act. This support was instrumental in the passage of the Ashworth Act of December 12, 1840. This law exempted the Ashworths and all free Blacks resident in Texas on the day of the Texas Declaration of Independence, along with their families, from the act of February 5.
In 1850 the census listed Aaron Ashworth as a farmer with a substantial amount of property, including six slaves. He and his wife, Mary, from Kentucky, had six children and a White schoolmaster in residence to tutor their four school-aged children. In 1860 Ashworth owned four slaves, and his property value had increased. He and many of his relatives were obviously respected in their community as wealthy and autonomous free Blacks.
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Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Andrew Forest Muir, "The Free Negro in Jefferson and Orange Counties, Texas," Journal of Negro History 35 (April 1950). Harold Schoen, "The Free Negro in the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39–41 (April 1936-July 1937).
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Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
Most Recent Revision Date:
September 29, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: