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Rep. Jarrells Asks Gov. DeWine for Support Returning Land to Former Slaves Denied Inheritance Almost 200 Years Ago

Randolph Freedpeople inherited 3,200 acres in Mercer Co. but were denied their land by racists mobs in 1846
June 13, 2024
Dontavius L. Jarrells News

COLUMBUS - State Rep. Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus) today sent a letter to Governor Mike DeWine, urging him to support exploring all options to address the historical injustice faced by the Randolph Freedpeople. These freed slaves inherited land in Ohio when their slaveholder died and granted them freedom, only to be violently chased away by a mob wielding bayonets.

“To form a more perfect Union, we, as responsible citizens and leaders, must carry forward the dream of our Founding Fathers and push our great country and its people forward. This often requires us to acknowledge our failures, learn from them, and continue forging ahead together,” wrote Rep. Jarrells in his letter to the governor. “Our greatest mistake, America’s original sin, has been and remains- the enduring legacy of slavery. However, we occasionally have the chance to eradicate some of the roots of racism and correct history’s greatest wrongs. I find myself at the brink of such an opportunity, and I ask for your support.”

After John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia died in 1883, he left in his will instructions to free his nearly 400 slaves, the eventual purchase of 3,200 acres of land for them to call home in Mercer County and the means for the freed people to travel there. After a drawn out legal battle over Randolph’s will and a lengthy exodus from Virginia to Ohio, the Randolph Freedpeople finally reached Mercer County in the summer of 1864. Once they arrived by boat from Cincinnati along the Miami Erie Canal, they were quickly turned away by an angry white mob determined to deny the freedpeople their legally inherited property. Fearing for their lives, the Randolph Freedpeople headed south, eventually settling in parts of Shelby and Miami County, with many making Piqua, Ohio, their new home. For generations now, they have contributed to their community, to Ohio, and to America.

On Tuesday, June 18th, Rep. Jarrells and several descendants of the Randolph Freedpeople will hold a news conference at 10:00am in the Senate Harding Press Briefing Room (Statehouse Room 109) to amplify the story of Randolph Freedpeople and detail ways they believe Ohio can return state-owned land to the Randolph Freedpeople descendants. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Jarrells’ letter to the governor and dozens of other elected officials is attached to this release.