On this dayJan 17, 1834

Alabama Legislature Bans Free Black People from Living in the State

Image | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library

On January 17, 1834, the Alabama State Legislature passed Act 44 as part of a series of increasingly restrictive laws governing the behavior of free and enslaved black people within the state.

In the immediate aftermath of the infamous Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia, Alabama passed a statute in 1833 that made it unlawful for free black people to settle in Alabama. That statute provided that freed black people found in Alabama would be given thirty days to vacate the state. After thirty days, they could be subject to a penalty of thirty-nine lashes and receive an additional twenty-day period to leave the state. After that period had expired, the free person could be sold back into slavery with proceeds of the sale going to the state and those who participated in apprehending him or her.

Act 44 expanded on this legislation by specifying a series of procedures that had to be followed for an enslaved black person to be freed within the state. For one, the law required that the emancipation of an enslaved person could only take effect outside of Alabama's borders. Further, if an emancipated black person returned to Alabama after being freed, he or should could be lawfully captured and sold back into slavery. In fact, Act 44 required sheriffs and other law enforcement officers to actively attempt to apprehend freedmen and freedwomen who entered Alabama for any reason–rending all free black people within the state vulnerable to kidnapping and enslavement with no legal protection.

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