Welcome to day six of Black History Month everyone. Today we are turning our attention to Elizabeth Freeman.

Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was the first black slave to file a freedom suit and win in Massachusetts.



Freeman was born between 1742 and 1744 in Claverack, New York. Around six months old, she, and her sister, were sold to John Ashley in Massachusetts. She served Ashley until she was nearly 40 years old. She also had a daughter known as Little Bett.

Freeman was married, but her husband was killed during the Revolutionary War.

One day, the mistress of the house tried to hit Freeman’s sister with a heated shovel, but Freeman intervened, and took the hit instead. She was left with a deep wound. She also left the household and refused to return.

Ashley appealed to have Freeman returned, but Freeman called on lawyer, Theodore Sedgewick, for help with a freedom suit. Although she couldn’t read or write, Freeman heard that it was written in the constitution, that all men were created equal.

Sedgewick took the case, and another slave by the name of Brom, also joined the case. Brom&Bett VS. Ashley case made it to the county court in 1780. Brom and Bett, were the first slaves to win a freedom suit. Ashley was ordered to pay them.

Freeman went to work for the Sedgewicks after the case. Along with her daughter, Freeman lived with the Sedgewicks. She became a housekeeper, and was widely recognized for her skills as a healing nurse.

Her case brought an end to slavery in Massachusetts. Freeman died in 1829 as a free woman.


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