The Lemmon Slave Case Videos & Events

Rescue of a Fugitive Slave. The New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection.


The Lemmon Case: 1852-1860
A Prelude to the Civil War: Adversity, Commitment and Triumph

The film deals with the history of slavery in New York State and the critical role New York courts played in freeing eight enslaved young women and children who sailed into New York harbor with their owners from the South, a ruling that was in direct conflict with the 1857 U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott decision. This film on the New York Lemmon Slave Case and its aftermath is narrated by Mr. James Earl Jones.

The Lemmon Case

In 2014, the Society sponsored the development of curricular materials that provided a uniquely New York look at the legal challenges to slavery before the Civil War and emphasized understanding the State and federal constitutions. The New York Court of Appeals ruled against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott and provides a case study into issues of federalism.

⇒ View our curricular materials on the case on our Lesson Plans page. 

Programs & Events

The Legacy of the Lemmon Slave Case and the Contribution of John Jay II: A Conversation with Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt, Author of The Eight

October 29, 2023  |  Jay Heritage Center

Presented by the Historical Society of the New York Courts and the Jay Heritage Center

Co-Sponsored by the Westchester County Bar Association and the Westchester Black Bar Association

The Jay family’s legacy of abolition work is epitomized by John Jay II’s defending eight enslaved women and children in 1852. Now known as the Lemmon Slave Case, the court ruled that the eight were free upon arriving on New York’s free soil, and the case became a battle cry for secession when appeals defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford. This program dives into the case, the dramatic events and characters, and its impact on the State and nation — with a special guest appearance from a descendant of two of the formerly enslaved.

Hon. Albert M. RosenblattRetired Associate Judge, New York Court of Appeals; Author, The Eight: The Lemmon Slave Case and the Fight for Freedom and President Emeritus & Inaugural Albert M. Rosenblatt Legal History Scholar, Historical Society of the New York Courts

Hon. Philippe Solages, Jr.Acting Supreme Court Justice, Court of Claims Judge, Nassau County Criminal Court

Luanne Wills-MerrellDescendant of two of the eight enslaved people

On the Road: The Legacy of the Lemmon Slave Case

September 7, 2023  |  New York County Courthouse

Co-Sponsored by the Supreme Court New York County-Civil Term Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

The Historical Society of the New York Courts’ exhibit of panels and a video narrated by the iconic voice of James Earl Jones presenting the landmark Lemmon Slave Case has recently concluded its successful tour of courthouses around the State at the NY County Courthouse. This program featured Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt interviewed by David L. Goodwin, Esq. discussing the NY courts’ decision to free eight enslaved women and children in 1852, defying the law of the land permitting slavery soon to be codified in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, and the dramatic events and cast of characters surrounding the case.

Hon. Adam SilveraAdministrative Justice, New York County Supreme Court
Hon. Dianne T. RenwickPresiding Justice, Appellate Division, First Department and Vice-Chair, Historical Society of the New York Courts
Hon. Deborah A. KaplanDeputy Chief Administrative Judge, New York City
Hon. Edwina G. Richardson-MendelsonDeputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives

Hon. Rowan D. WilsonChief Judge of the State of New York

Hon. Jonathan LippmanFormer Chief Judge of the State of New York and President, Historical Society of the New York Courts
Marilyn MarcusExecutive Director, Historical Society of the New York Courts

The Lemmon Case: 1852-1860 — A Prelude to the Civil War

Hon. Albert M. RosenblattRetired Associate Judge, New York Court of Appeals and President Emeritus & Inaugural Albert M. Rosenblatt Legal History Scholar, Historical Society of the New York Courts

Interviewed by

David L. Goodwin, Esq.Supervisory Staff Attorney, Office of Legal Affairs, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Trustee, Historical Society of the New York Courts

The Lemmon Slave Case: New York’s Battle Against Slavery

September 17, 2021  |  Webinar

his event was produced by the New York State Archives Partnership Trust.

On the eve of the Civil War in 1860 New York’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, upheld a petition granted by the Superior Court in New York City for the release of eight enslaved people, including six children brought to New York by Virginians Jonathan and Juliet Lemmon on their way to Texas. This event featured a discussion of this celebrated case that brought up hard questions about slavery within the United States and challenged the slavery laws between the northern and southern states.


Hon. Albert M. RosenblattFormer Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeals, and President Emeritus, Historical Society of the New York Courts
Tom Ruller, New York State Archivist

Watch the Program Video


The Evolution of Slavery, Abolition in NY, and the NY Courts–The Lemmon Slave Case

This episode was recorded on April 20, 2020, and showcases a landmark NYS high court decision ahead of Dred Scott.

Historical Society of the New York Courts Trustees Dennis E. Glazer (former head of litigation practice at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP) and Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt (former Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals) trace New York’s relationship with slavery from the early days of the colony to the climate of the nation leading up to the Civil War. The video version is peppered with amazing imagery that Judge Rosenblatt has collected through his research into his forthcoming book on this case. The episode culminates with an investigation into the Lemmon Slave Case itself. Affirmed by the Court of Appeals in 1860, the Lemmon Slave Case illustrates how NYS law was ahead of federal in finding that slaves brought into the State were not property. This went against the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, decided three years earlier.



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