While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Nolan Thompson

ASHWORTH, AARON (ca. 1803–?). Aaron Ashworth, free black colonist and landowner, was born in South Carolina about 1803. In 1833 he followed his brother William Ashworth to Lorenzo de Zavala's colony in East Texas, leaving his home in what is now Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Other relatives named Ashworth also came to the Zavala colony and were affected when the General Council passed an ordinance forbidding the immigration of free blacks into Texas. The law was not enforced against any of the Ashworths. When the Texas Congress passed an act on February 5, 1840, ordering all free blacks to leave the republic within two years or be sold into slavery, white support for the Ashworths came in the form of three petitions requesting their exemption from the act. This support was instrumental in the passage of the Ashworth Act of December 12, 1840. This law exempted the Ashworths and all free blacks resident in Texas on the day of the Texas Declaration of Independence, along with their families, from the act of February 5.

In 1850 the census listed Aaron Ashworth as a farmer with a substantial amount of property, including six slaves. He and his wife, Mary, from Kentucky, had six children and a white schoolmaster in residence to tutor their four school-aged children. In 1860 Ashworth owned four slaves, and his property value had increased. He and many of his relatives were obviously respected in their community as wealthy and autonomous free blacks.

Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Andrew Forest Muir, "The Free Negro in Jefferson and Orange Counties, Texas," Journal of Negro History 35 (April 1950). Harold Schoen, "The Free Negro in the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39–41 (April 1936-July 1937).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Nolan Thompson, "ASHWORTH, AARON," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fas05.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...