About this Site

Since 1999 is the official site for Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman, the first black woman to win her freedom in the USA. The webmaster lived in Housatonic and Great Barrington for almost ten years and became acquainted with the story of Mumbet, visited the grave, and quickly saw how important Mumbet's story is in US History and registered the domain.  This site has grown over the years and many have contributed to the knowledge of Mumbet by posting in a guest book as well as emails.  This version is a Joomla project which was begun in March 2011.  May you enjoy learning about this remarkable notable woman who without a doubt will become famous someday. Mumbet should be taught to children in school along with Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket, John Henry and other American folk lore heroes.


Tapping Reeve

Tapping Reeve

Tapping Reeve assisted Theodore Sedgwick in gaining Mumbet's freedom. Reeve was from Litchfield, Connecticut and founded the first law school in the United States in the house below in 1774 which you may visit. The lawyers for Colonel John Ashley were attorneys John Canfield Esq & David Noble Gental who were noted lawyers during this period. However it was the team of Sedgwick and Reeve who were instrumental in winning Mumbet's freedom. You may read Mumbet's court record.


The image to the left is used with permission from the Collection of the Litchfield Historical Society



Litchfield Law School Founded by Tappin Reeve
Image to the right with permission of the Litchfield Historical Society
Litchfield Law School Founded by Tappin Reeve


Beginning in 1784, Reeve, systematized his law lectures for young students, creating the Litchfield Law School. Reeve was the first to develop a series of formal, regular lectures that insured that all students had access to the same body of knowledge. The lectures became so popular that in 1784 Reeve built a small school building adjacent to his house to accommodate his growing classes, and to house his law library. Over its 60 year history, more than 1,500 men graduated from the Litchfield Law School, many of them going on to distinguished careers. The list of graduates includes two Vice Presidents, Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun, over 100 members of the House of Representatives, 28 senators, 14 governors, 14 cabinet members, 34 State Supreme Court Justices, and 3 Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

source >

The house has finely furnished period rooms and is open to visitors from mid April through the end of November. For more information >

Biographical information from Princeton


Books by Tapping Reeve


Links and more

References & Articles on Mumbet in Library

  • America's Story by David King and Margaret Branson, Story 7, "Mumbet" Book 3. ã (1984) Sundance Publishing.
  • The Ashleys: A Pioneer Berkshire Family, Publication prepared for use as a guidebook for the Ashley House, Ashley Falls, MA.,
  • Berkshire Courts Emancipated the First American SlaveThe Berkshire Hills, Vol. I, No. 2, Pittsfield, MA, October 1, 1900, p.4,5
  • The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution 1770-1800, Sidney Kaplan(1973),pp. 216-217)
  • Berkshire Book, Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Judicial History of Berkshire, p.104-5
  • Black Women in America Volume One, Editors, Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley
    Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (Indiana University Press, 1994,p. 469,
    Essay written by Taunya Lovell Banks
  • Dictionary of American Biography, (8, Part 2: 549-50), article on Mumbet, author Zachariah Chaffee
  • Dictionary of American Negro Biography, Editors, Rayford W. Logan and Michael
    R. Winston (Published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1982)
  • The First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1967)
  • Life and Letters of Catharine M. Sedgwick, Edited by Mary E. Dewey , 1871
  • The History of the Negro in America 1619-1900,By George Washington Williams (1863)
  • The Life and Times of Elizabeth Freeman by Paul F. Graham
  • Mumbet & Judge Sedgwick: A Footnote to the Early History of Massachusetts JusticeThe Boston Bar Jornal VII Jan 1964, p.12-14
  • Mumbet: Folklore and Fact, by Arthur Zilversmit
  • New American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, George Ripley and Charles A. Dana, eds,.(New York: d. appleton and co., 1863), Vol. XIV, p. 487
  • Part First, Gazetteer of Berkshire County, Massachusetts 1725-1885 by Hamilton Child, 1885, p.349-351
  • The Practicability of the Abolition of Slavery: A Lecture Delivered at the Lyceum in Stockbridge, MassachusettsBerkshire Book, Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Judicial History of Berkshire, p.104-5
  • Retrospect of Western Travel, Harriet Martineau, discusses Elizabeth Freeman
  • Quok walker, Mumbet and the Abolition of Slavery in MassachusettsWilliam and May Quarterly 3rd Ser. Vol. XXV, 1968, p. 616
  • Sheffield: Frontier Town, Lillian E. Priess (North Adams, Ma: Excelsior Printing Co., 1976), p. 47
  • "Slavery in New England," by Catharine Sedgwick, Bentley's Miscellany, XXXIV (London: Woodfall and Kinder, 1853 ), p. 417-24
  • Mumbet's Last Will & Testament