Smith Act

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Smith, Harry C..jpg
Portrait of Harry C. Smith (1863-1941), a representative from Cuyahoga County, from his term in the 71st session of the Ohio House of Representatives, 1894-1895. He also served in the 72nd session,

1896-1897, and 74th session, 1900-1901.

In 1896, Harry Smith, an African-American state legislator from Cleveland, and Albion Tourgee, a white supporter of white and black equality, introduced an anti-lynching bill in the Ohio General Assembly. The bill became known as the Smith Act. This legislation allowed the victims of lynchings (hangings) and their families to sue county governments. Victims could sue for up to one thousand dollars, while family members were permitted to sue for up to five thousand dollars. The bill resulted from at least six lynchings of African Americans in Ohio during the 1890s. The Ohio legislature hoped that the Smith Act would deter violence against African Americans. It was the most stringent anti-lynching law in the United States at the time. Following its passage, the number of African-American lynchings declined in Ohio.

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