From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Poindexter, Henry, Sr. [Anderson v Poindexter]

(born: 1823  -  died: Dec. 10, 1889) The decision in the Anderson vs Poindexter case made by the Supreme Court of Ohio was viewed by some as in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution. In the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of the Dred Scott case, Scott, who had temporarily lived in a free state, was denied his freedom because it was concluded that all African Americans, enslaved and freemen, were not citizens of the U.S. and therefore could not sue in federal court.

In a somewhat similar case, Henry Poindexter, the enslaved individual of John Anderson in Campbell County, KY, was given his freedom by the Supreme Court of Ohio. For many years, Poindexter had been allowed to hire himself out in Ohio with Anderson's permission. In 1848, Poindexter made an agreement with Anderson to purchase his freedom. Poindexter received promissory notes from Anderson that specified the cost of Poindexter's freedom: he was valued at about $1,000. Poindexter was the principal of the notes with the sureties made by Thomas C. Gowdy, Jackson White, and Francis Donaldson.

Once in Ohio, Poindexter and the cosigners refused to pay Anderson the amount of the notes, and Poindexter declared his freedom because Ohio was a free state. Anderson filed suit in Ohio to regain his slave.

In 1856, the Supreme Court of Ohio found that Henry Poindexter was a free man. Contrary to the U.S. Constitution, Poindexter was not an escaped enslaved person nor was he passing through Ohio to another destination; in Ohio he was a free person, and in the opinion of Justice Ozias Bowen, Poindexter had been free since the first time he set foot on Ohio soil; returning to Kentucky had not made him enslaved  again. He was determined free when he made the contract with Anderson; in Kentucky contracts were not legal between a master and those he enslaved; therefore the contract was void there.

Henry Poindexter was born in Alabama and was the husband of Harriet Poindexter (b. 1828). The family is listed as free and living in Fairfield, OH, later moving to Hamilton, OH (first indicated in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census). Henry was employed as a laborer. According to the U.S. Colored Troops enlistment records, on January 30, 1865 in Dayton, OH, Henry Poindexter enlisted as a private in Company B, 16th U.S. Colored Infantry.

After his service in the Union Army, Poindexter returned to Hamilton, where he died December 10, 1889 and was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. His grave is part of the African American Civil War Memorial. A headstone was provided by the U.S. Government at some point prior to 1903.

For more see An Imperfect Union, by P. Finkelman; the second paragraph of "The News" in the Syracuse Daily Courier, 5/18/1857, p. 2; "In the Supreme Court of Ohio. Poindexter et al. vs Anderson, et al.," The American Law Register (1852-1891), vol. 6, issue 2/3 (Dec., 1857 - Jan., 1858), pp. 78-122; and his grave record at the FindAGrave website.

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Read about Campbell County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: An imperfect union : slavery, Federalism, and comity
NKAA Source: Syracuse daily courier (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The American law register (1852-1891) (periodical)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Poindexter, Henry, Sr. [Anderson v Poindexter],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-06-22 16:48:38