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UMass Amherst Libraries

Researching the Early History of Black Lives in the Connecticut River Valley


“Prior to the establishment of police forces, beginning in Boston in 1837,” the Colonial Society of Massachusetts explains, “courts were probably the form of secular authority with which the citizenry had the greatest contact. Early court records, accordingly, mirror almost every aspect of civil authority.” [need to explain county court system -- General Sessions and Common Pleas -- when they met and what sort of business each did, how organized, etc., and so what kinds of material a researcher could expect to find about Af Am life.  Administrative/bureaucratic work of courts and civil offenses vs criminal offenses. 

General Sessions and Common Pleas for Hampshire County are housed physically at SCUA and are online at the Internet Archive, here.

Court Records Further Reading

Whiting, Gloria McCahon. “Race, Slavery, and the Problem of Numbers in Early New England: A View from Probate Court.” The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 77, no. 3, 2020, pp. 405–440. JSTOR, Accessed 22 June 2021.