A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

History: First Black Jury Foreman in Middlesex County Court Case, 1899

The 24 April 1899 edition of The Matawan Journal had a story about what was thought to be the first time an African-American juror was chosen to be jury foreman in the Middlesex County courts.

A Colored Juryman

George W Thompson of New Brunswick was drawn as foreman of the jury in the suit of Edward Flanigan against the Guggenheim Smelting Company in the Middlesex County Courts last week. Mr Thompson is a man of color and is said to be the first colored man to be drawn as the foreman of a jury in that county within the recollection of the county officials.

Mr Thompson is a man of about fifty and is unusually intelligent looking. In listening to the testimony in the case he showed a thorough understanding and appreciation of what was occurring, and proved to be considerably better for his duty than the average juror.

The 1900 Federal Census for New Jersey shows George W Thompson was born in July 1841 in New Jersey to NJ parents. He was living at 119 Church Street in New Brunswick's 5th Ward and was employed as a cook in a restaurant. His wife Anne E Thompson was born in Dec 1846 in NJ to NJ parents. They had been married 28 years at the time and had one child, still living.

The 11 May 1899 edition of the Journal mentions that the first African-American woman had recently passed the pharmacy boards in New Jersey. It was in an article about the progress of women in the state. The 25 May 1899 edition, by contrast, offered a less than accepting discussion of women having just gained the right to vote in the local Matawan school board elections.


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