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In Lemmon v. the People (1860), New York's highest court declared that slaves traveling through the state with their holder were "free". (1) The decision further fueled an angry national debate on slavery, constitutional principles, and state powers. Already in its eighth year, the case was on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court when the Civil War erupted in April 1861 and made its issues somewhat moot. The case's career and consequences have been well fitted into the historiography of the coming of the war. (2) It has not, however, been so well fitted into New York's history. The origins of the episode exposed much about the politics of antislavery and race in antebellum New York and particularly in New York City, then confined to lower Manhattan Island. (3) The case's start also showed some of black New Yorkers' too often unnoticed contributions to antebellum antislavery. The case arose beyond the state's oft-mentioned white elite who did invaluable work in the cause against slavery. Thus it contributed a view of antislavery beyond the more often told story of James G. Birney, Beriah Green, William Goodell, William Jay, Gerrit Smith, and the merchant brothers Arthur and Lewis Tappan, for example. (4) It offered a different view than that from spectacular and spontaneous events such as the 1851 rescue of the alleged fugitive slave William "Jerry" Henry in Syracuse. (5) A view of the case's origins opens more of the panorama of antebellum New York history.