Who is Mumbet?

Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, acquired Mumbet and her sister, Lizzy, from their owner, a Dutchman named Pieter Hogeboom, upon his marriage to Hogeboom’s daughter, Annetje (Hannah).

The event, according to folklore, which prompted Mumbet to sue for her freedom occurred when the mistress of the house, Mrs. Ashley, attempted to strike Mumbet’s sister, Lizzy, with a heated kitchen shovel in the Ashley House. Mumbet blocked the blow, but her arm was injured and she never regained its full use.

According to novelist Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Mumbet was prompted to seek freedom after hearing the Declaration of Independence spoken, and according to historian Arthur Zilversmit the people of Berkshire County then adopted Mumbet’s cause to test the constitutionality of slavery following the passage of the new state constitution. ‘Brom and Bett’  were the first enslaved  African Americans to be set free under the new  Massachusetts State Constitution of 1780. Mumbet is without a doubt the first black woman in the United States to be set free from enslavement due in large part to her own determination and character.

After Mumbet was set free she chose the name Elizabeth Freeman and began working in the Theodore Sedgwick family as a paid servant, first in Sheffield, and later, when the family moved to Stockbridge.  She became a surrogate mother to the children of Theodore whom affectionately called her Mumbet.

Mumbet Court Records
• Mumbet’s Grave
• Mumbet’s Portrait
• Mumbet’s Will
• Mumbet’s Bracelet
• Mumbet and the Ashley House
• Mumbet and Shay’s Rebellion
• Mumbet and Agrippa Hull
Mumbet at the NMAAHC
• Mumbet – American Heritage
• Mumbet on a Postage Stamp
• Mumbet Movie
• Mumbet Mini-Series
• Mumbet Videos
• Mumbet Past Comments

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