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.
The Ohio Civil Rights Law of 1894 was an early effort by the Ohio government to eliminate racial discrimination in Ohio.
In 1894, the State of Ohio passed a Civil Rights Law. Harry C. Smith, an African-American state legislator from Cleveland, introduced the bill in the Ohio legislature. While a number of African-Americans had created prosperous lives for themselves in the state, many of these same people still faced discrimination because of their race. For example, in 1900, Cleveland had six thousand black people living within its city limits. Seventy percent of these people lived in a small area southeast of the downtown and separated from the white neighborhoods of the city. At this time, African Americans commonly faced employment discrimination and segregation. Smith hoped that the Ohio Civil Rights Law of 1894 would help end discrimination in Ohio. The law made it illegal to discriminate in public businesses and buildings. Violators could face either civil or criminal prosecution. The provisions of the Civil Rights Law were not generally enforced until the late 1950s and the early 1960s.