Our Whole History Matters – The Lemmon Slave Case

NY Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins talks with JHC Board member Olney Reynolds

On Sunday, October 29, 2023, the Historical Society of the New York Courts in conjunction with the Jay Heritage Center conducted a compelling program entitled: The Legacy of the Lemmon Slave Case and the Contribution of John Jay II. 

The event featured a conversation with author and retired Court of Appeals Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt.  Judge Rosenblatt authored the book, The Eight: The Lemmon Slave Case and the Fight for Freedom.  The program was moderated by Judge Philippe Solages of the Nassau County Supreme Court.  A special guest appearance was made by Luanne Wills-Merrell, who is a descendant of two of the formerly enslaved people.  The event was co-sponsored by the Westchester Bar Association and the Westchester Black Bar Association.

The conversation between Judge Rosenblatt and Judge Solages focused on a variety of historical issues including slavery in United States and in New York, freedom suits, the Underground Railroad, and the abolition movement.

The Jay Heritage Center was a perfect venue for the event because of the Jay family’s legacy of abolitionism.  John Jay II represented the 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 United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford.  The program also comprehensively addressed the Lemmon Slave Case, the dramatic events and characters, and its impact on the State and the Nation.

Upon arrival at the event, guests had the opportunity to conduct a tour of the 1838 Jay Mansion.  At the conclusion of the program, the attendees took part in a reception were guests interacted with judges and members of the Historical Society. The Judicial Institute offered CLE credits for qualifying participants.

New York State Senator Andrea Stewart- Cousins attended the event as did Westchester Family Court Judge Hon. Kathie Davidson.

Patch writer Jeff Edwards who attended described the event this way :”[a] Hudson Valley institution, that is well-known for taking us back in time in ways both visceral and scholarly, was the perfect venue for exploring a pivotal moment in a fight for freedom that would tear a new nation apart.” Photos by Kim Crichlow. Read the full article here.

Watch the video here.