Berlin Crossroads, Ohio

From Ohio History Central
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Photograph of Polly Jackson, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Polly Jackson joined a community of free blacks in the settlement of Africa, Ohio, a free and predominantly African-American community like Berlin Crossroads. There were several communities such as Berlin Crossroads and Africa in Ohio.

Established in Ohio during the early nineteenth century, Berlin Crossroads was a predominantly African-American community.

Located in Jackson County, Berlin Crossroads was located near the city of Jackson. Several African Americans settled in the area, with some becoming sizable landowners. Among the more famous residents of this community was Thomas Woodson, a former slave of President Thomas Jefferson. While much evidence suggests that Jefferson fathered several children with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, it does not appear that Thomas Woodson, although he was one of Hemings's sons, was a descendent of this liaison.

While Berlin Crossroads remained small in size during its existence, the community eventually boasted a school and church. Berlin Crossroads also was important to the Underground Railroad, with several families, including the Woodsons, opening their homes to runaway slaves. It appears that most of the runaways that passed through Berlin Crossroads entered Ohio in Gallia County. After arriving at Berlin Crossroads, conductors helped the runaways to either Chillicothe or Washington Court House. Several people speculate that two of Thomas Woodson's sons were beaten to death for their activities on the Underground Railroad, but evidence is lacking to confirm this.

By the mid 1900s, Berlin Crossroads had lost its identity as a separate community. With whites increasingly showing African Americans tolerance, many African Americans began to find acceptance in traditionally white communities. In 1970, construction of the Appalachian Highway resulted in the destruction of much of Berlin Crossroads, including the community's former school.

Despite the growing opposition to slavery by some whites during the early 1800s, communities, such as Berlin Crossroads, illustrate the prejudice that existed in Ohio during the years before the American Civil War. Ohio was a state that did not allow slavery. Nevertheless, that did not mean that whites were open to granting African Americans equal rights. Free blacks found that it was difficult to get fair treatment, and they often formed their own communities away from whites for protection.

See Also


  1. Woodson, Byron W., Sr. A President in the Family: Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and Thomas Woodson. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.