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Moses Aaron Simons

Home Town:
London, England
Later Residences:
Jacksonboro, SC
New York, NY
Biographical Notes:
Moses Aaron Simons, perhaps America’s first black lawyer, was the son and namesake of Moses Simons, a Jewish immigrant who moved from London to South Carolina between the years of 1772-1783. In South Carolina, Moses’ extended family owned considerable property, including slaves. No mention is ever made of Moses’ mother, but as an object of note the five Simons sons were known for black and Mulatto mistresses, of which reference is made to in their wills. Moses is believed to be a child of such a union. Until recently, his race was unrecognized.

Between 1805 and 1809, Moses attended Yale University as its first Jewish student, earning a BA. He then attended Litchfield Law School in 1810 and was admitted to the NY Bar in 1816. From 1816 until 1820, Moses served in the NYC Criminal ...

Years at LLS:
Other Education:
Graduated from Yale College in 1809.

Profession / Service

help The Citation of Attendance provides primary source documentation of the student’s attendance at the Litchfield Female Academy and/or the Litchfield Law School. If a citation is absent, the student is thought to have attended but currently lacks primary source confirmation.

Records for the schools were sporadic, especially in the formative years of both institutions. If instructors kept comprehensive records for the Litchfield Female Academy or the Litchfield Law School, they do not survive. Researchers and staff have identified students through letters, diaries, family histories and genealogies, and town histories as well as catalogues of students printed in various years. Art and needlework have provided further identification of Female Academy Students, and Litchfield County Bar records document a number of Law School students. The history of both schools and the identification of the students who attended them owe credit to the early 20th century research and documentation efforts of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel and Samuel Fisher, and the late 20th century research and documentation efforts of Lynne Templeton Brickley and the Litchfield Historical Society staff.
Litchfield County Bar Association Records, 1810, Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library, Litchfield Historical Society

Bond, William Key Student Lecture Notes 1811-1812, Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum Joseph Downs Manuscript Collection No. 65x669.

Fisher, Samuel. Litchfield Law School 1774-1833, Biographical Catalogue of Students New Haven, CT: Yale Law Library, 1946. 8.
Secondary Sources:
Copland, Laura. "The Rise and Fall of Moses Simons: A Black Lawyer in the New York City Criminal Court, 1816-1820." African Americans in New York Life and History 37.2 (2013): 81-114.

Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Sept 1805-Sept 1815, Vol. 6 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912), 279.

WOLKOFF, ADAM. "A Crisis of Legitimacy: Defining the Boundaries of Kinship in the Low Country during the Early Republic." Journal of the Early Republic 35, no. 1 (2015): 55-77. Accessed February 2, 2021.

Rogers, Daniel. The New-York City-hall Recorder Containing Reports, of the Most Interesting Trials and Decisions which Have Arisen in the ...

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