COLUMBUS, OHIO (WCMH) — Currently the Ohio Constitution states “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.” A new resolution by state Senator Cecil Thomas would change that.
The resolution introduced Friday would remove the sentence “unless for the punishment of crime”.
“It simply says we can still put you back in slavery,” said Sen. Thomas, (D-Avondale). “There’s an exception and I always say why would you even have an exception to something that was so damaging to the nation as a whole.”
The resolution would need to pass both the House and the Senate by 60 percent and then head to a ballot for the voters. Senator Thomas says it’s a move Ohio must take to carry on.
“What better way for Ohio to say ‘We are serious about addressing this issue of racism’ and what better way to start off by removing that language from our constitution,” said Senator Thomas.
At the Kelton House Museum and Gardens, where you can find a rich history of Ohio’s connection to the Underground Railroad, Director Sarah Richardt says it’s especially important now to look into the history of laws in the state.
“The laws were never cut and dry. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, well it didn’t really, it only freed some of the slaves,” said Richardt. “Everything was so ambiguous. If we don’t understand the slow steps that have been made, even today you’re free unless you commit a crime, there is always that ambiguity there and so if you don’t understand the history and what’s behind each law . . . it skews history.”
Press Secretary for the Ohio Senate Majority John Fortney said in a statement that the resolution would receive a full and fair consideration. Senator Thomas said he is still welcoming co-sponsors.