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

Some scholars have changed the folklore story that has been told for over two hundred years about Lizzy being Mumbet’s sister and conclude that Lizzy is, instead, Mumbet’s daughter. These same scholars also point out there is no evidence that W.E.B. Du Bois , who claimed to be related to Mumbet, is only possibly distantly related at the most, possibly a step great, great grandmother. – Acknowledgement

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