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Ohio Lawmaker Calls To Remove Clause From State Constitution Allowing Slavery

Ohio History Connection

The Ohio Constitution bans slavery except for one reason, and at least one Black lawmaker wants that exception stripped from the state’s governing document.

When the state constitution was ratified in 1851, it contained this clause: “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.”

State Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) says the clause must be removed, saying there is no excuse for that language in this day and age.

“What legitimate reason would you have that exception for, unless you planned to use it for Ohio’s future history?" Thomas asks.

Thomas says lawmakers would have to put the change before voters, and says that should happen sooner rather than later. 

He's introducing a joint resolution that would delete the phrase "unless for the punishment of crime," and if passed by three-fifths of both chambers, the constitutional amendment would be placed as an issue on November's ballot.

The Ohio Senate is planning to meet monthly, but the House isn't scheduled to come back until September.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.