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    1855 Houston ordinance severely limits the activities of slaves

    Houston Slavery Ordinance Broadside: "An Ordinance Concerning Slaves." One blue page, 8.25" x 11.5", Houston, September 13, 1855, signed in print by Houston Mayor James H. Stevens The printed ordinance, comprised of twelve sections, severely limited slave activity in Houston and offered punishments, which could include up to thirty-nine lashes.

    Slaves in Houston, according to Section 3, were to adhere to a 9:00 p.m. curfew: "no slave, unless he or she shall have a written permit, specifying the time for which, and the place to which said slave may go, from the owner . . . shall be permitted to be from home after nine o'clock, P.M." Those guilty were to be "apprehended and committed to jail until next morning, when he or she shall be brought before the Recorder and adjudged to receive not less than five nor more than thirty-nine lashes, and shall be fined two dollars."

    Section 5 stipulated that "any slave who shall be guilty of any riotous, or disorderly conduct, or shall, at any time, raise his or her hand to strike any white person, or shall use any abusive, indecent, or insulting language, towards a white person, shall, on conviction thereof, receive thirty lashes on his or her bare back, and shall be condemned to work on the public works of the city."

    According to Section 6, slaves were not allowed to play "at any game, with cards, or dice, or any other game." Section 9 forbade congregating "in numbers exceeding five, at any place except on their owner's or agent's premises, except it be for the purpose of religious worship, and not then without the presence of at least one respectable freeholder." Those guilty of these offenses were to receive "thirty lashes on his or her bare back, and shall be condemned to work on the public works of the city." The ordinance also limited other slave activity, including the locations they could dwell.

    In 1855, Houston had a slave population of over 1,500. One year later - ten months after this ordinance took effect - Mayor Stevens died of tuberculosis. The right edge of this broadside is uneven. Minor tape repair exists in the margins and pin holes in the corners. Also included with the broadside are two newspaper clippings of 1855 ordinances issued by Mayor Stevens.

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