Thank you to Vivian Thiele from the New Jersey State Archives for an unprecedented and revealing look into how African Americans appeared before the NJ Supreme Court in numerous ways during the early colonial and post-Revolutionary War time periods. One of most common ways Africans Americans appeared in the records of the NJ Supreme were through writs of Habeas Corpus to appear before the court for testimony as well as releases of recognizance, paid by slave owners, so that slaves were able to be “free” and work rather than remained imprisoned while awaiting a trial. There are also instances where African Americans are named in Replevin lawsuits as stolen property, where one can also find supporting documents about the history of the individual African American, including bills of sale or transfer. Lastly, Vivian touched on how certain judicial officials can be found repeatedly on different court documents relating to African Americans and how we can use that information as well as their decisions to glean more about their views on slavery, including early abolitionists, such as Joseph Bloomfield.
The records of the NJ Supreme Court relating to slave cases are currently being digitized and are not available online. However, there is a online database of all of records of the NJ Supreme Court that can be filtered by different criteria, including ethnicity. There are 463 records that can be found currently under the African American ethnicity criteria. The database is available at https://wwwnet-dos.state.nj.us/DOS_ArchivesDBPortal/index.aspx.