Above: Black and White Roman mosaic floor from Sardis, Turkey
Zabina Edwards (1815-1883)
Illinois came into the Union as a “free state” in 1818, but in reality Illinois law did not treat Blacks and Mulattoes as equal with whites during the 1800’s. Until its repeal in 1853, Illinois had a “Black Code,” which harked back to the southern slave laws. Abolitionist Illinois newspaperman Zebina Edwards wrote a critical assessment of the black laws in an essay in 1883. Zabina writes:
“Sec. 19. [The Code] Provides that in all cases of penal acts, where free persons are punishable by fine, servants shall be punished by whipping, and the rate gives (twenty lashes for every eight dollars, the rate of the currency being forty cents a lash)…” Zebina continues: “We see from the above, with all power of contract gone, and buying and selling prohibited, what little chance the person has of lawfully acquiring property, or what chance he may have of paying off a penalty, for which the white loafer pays eight dollars, while the black must settle it at the rate of twenty lashes for every eight dollars.
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