Negro Evidence

January 25, 1866


Arguments surround a bill guaranteeing the admission of African American evidence in courts of law.


"A bill to amend and re-enact the ninth section of chapter one hundred and three of the Code of Virginia, defining a mulatto, providing for the punishment of offenses by colored persons, and for the admission of their evidence in legal investigations; and to repeal all laws in relation to slaves and slavery, and for other purposes," came up as unfinished business-the question being on the amendment, proposed by Mr.Coleman, just write out the previous amendment and to restore the original bill as reported by the Committee on Courts of Justice. The original bill provides that negro testimony shall be admitted in all cases where negroes are interested, but where White men only are interested their evidence Will not be admitted until January 1, 1868. Mr.Keen said, in response to some remarks of Mr.Crockett, that he was acting in this matter in support of the policy of President Johnson, and not in opposition to it. Mr. Johnson stands facing the Radical party of the North, who pressed on him the ideas of negro equality. The president opposes negro suffrage, and says that it will take generations to efface the line of demarcation between the negro and the white man, and that he (Mr.Keen) intended, so far as lies in his power, to sustain the President, so that he could rest secure in the support of Virginia. He was in favor of giving negroes the right to testify in cases where they are concerned, but that he would never consent to give them the ability to outweigh the evidence of white men. Mr.Boyd advocated the admission of negro testimony in all cases. The object of evidence is to get at truth, and if truth is attainable in the admission of evidence of negroes in cases where they are interested, then why not in cases where white men are interested. He said that he could not express his own views in stronger terms than those employed in the bill. Mr.Meade moved to amend the bill by declaring that it shall be in force from the time of the removal of the Freedmen's Bureau. The amendment was negatived by a vote of four to twenty-five. The bill was ordered to engrossment.
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Justin Barlow




“Negro Evidence,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 29, 2023,