Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

April 9, 2014

ANDREA NEAL: Although illegal, slavery existed in 'free' Indiana

It took two suits to enforce prohibition

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016.

Although the state constitution expressly prohibited it, slavery existed in early Indiana. Two court cases filed by enslaved black women put an end to the practice.

In the early 19th century, Polly Strong and Mary Clark challenged prevailing attitudes to claim their civil rights as U.S. and Indiana citizens.

“People get really uneasy about saying Indiana practiced slavery,” said Eunice Trotter, a Clark descendant who has researched the story. “This is our history, and we don’t ignore it like it never happened. We embrace it, we learn from it and we move on.”

In a legal sense, slavery was always forbidden in Indiana. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery’s spread north of the Ohio River into the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In practice, slavery not only existed but was accepted by leading citizens. Pioneers moving to Indiana from Virginia or Kentucky, where slavery was legal, considered slaves property and brought them along, sometimes as “indentured servants” whose contracts exceeded their life spans. The 1810 census counted 237 slaves and 393 free blacks in the Indiana Territory.

Any questions about their status should have been settled by the Constitution of 1816, which declared, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this state, otherwise than for the punishment of crimes.” But it took two lawsuits to enforce the constitutional protection.

Strong had been a slave since birth and became the property of Hyacinth Lasselle of Vincennes around 1808. Lasselle was a tavern keeper and an officer in the Indiana militia. After Indiana became a state, Strong filed for her freedom in Knox County Circuit Court.

Judge Jonathan Doty’s ruling reflected the attitudes of many who lived in the former territorial capital: Despite living in a free state, Strong was Lasselle’s property because she was born into slavery and had come legally into his possession.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 22, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Indiana Democrats deal with divide on education On the face of it, the battles between Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz and supporters and staff of Republican Gov. Mike Pence have been a unifying force for Indiana Democrats. But the scrapping has exposed a deep rift within the party o

    July 22, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Is Evan Bayh contemplating another gubernatorial run? This could be the saga of “LeBron Bayh.”Like a thunderhead brewing in the distance, you could see this one coming. This was the progression: former state Democratic Chairman Dan Parker announces he will not become a candidate for mayor of Indianapoli

    July 21, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: Please go away already My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven't caught up. I don't have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 21, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Internet, and future of communication One morning, I was chatting with some retired folks and the subject of paying bills on the Internet came up. One woman said she disposed of her computer years ago and pays her bills by mail. I commented she could get by just fine doing that. The othe

    July 20, 2014

  • FAITH BRAUTIGAM: Learning from others' mistakes through literature If you’ve ever been locked out of somewhere — your home, your car, your workplace — I expect you could tell me all the details of the incident, even if it was years or decades ago. Why? Our brains remember major events, and it’s a big deal to be stra

    July 20, 2014

  • RAY DAY: We need to get tough Last year I said I was going to quit trying to do anything about the shooting off of fireworks in the neighborhoods. But as anyone who knows me can say, I don't give up on things that are of utmost danger. Here it was, a week before the Fourth of Jul

    July 19, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Is this country doomed to ceaseless polarization? We Americans are trapped in a political dilemma. We all like representative democracy, but we don't much like the way it's performing. The reason for this dissatisfaction is clear. Polls in recent years detail a polarized nation, divided both ideolog

    July 18, 2014

  • DAN COATS: Solving border crisis is a moral obligation More than 60,000 unaccompanied alien children — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been apprehended on America’s southern border during this fiscal year. Another 40,000 family members — one or both parents traveling with their chi

    July 18, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Road to funding Ind. highways is jammed If you’ve driven on either of Indiana’s two busiest interstates recently, you’ll understand why a blue-ribbon commission last week called for adding traffic lanes to those harrowing highways.The report, issued by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on T

    July 15, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller