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Elizabeth Freeman: A Slavery Abolitionist


Elizabeth Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was an enslaved African American woman in colonial America who successfully sued for her freedom in a Massachusetts court in 1781. Her case, Brom and Bett v. Ashley, was instrumental in ending slavery in Massachusetts.


Freeman's owner, John Ashley, was a wealthy Massachusetts landowner and businessman. Freeman overheard discussions about the new Massachusetts Constitution, which declared that "all men are born free and equal," and she decided to seek her freedom based on these principles. With the help of Theodore Sedgwick, a young lawyer, she sued for her freedom in court.


In her case, Freeman argued that the Massachusetts Constitution's declaration of liberty meant that she, as a person, could not be held as a slave. The court agreed with her, and her victory set a precedent that ultimately led to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.


Following her successful lawsuit, Freeman took the name Elizabeth Freeman and worked as a paid domestic servant for the Sedgwick family. Her case played a significant role in the abolitionist movement, demonstrating that enslaved individuals could use the principles of freedom and equality to fight for their rights in court. Elizabeth Freeman's courage and determination continue to be celebrated in American history as a symbol of resistance against slavery and injustice.




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