Past Comments on Mumbet


Subject: thank you

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999

From: "Barry Collum"

I just wanted to thank you for creating the Mumbet page. Im doing school research, and found hardly anything on Elizabeth Freeman except for your site, and links from it! Thanks Again.

From: "Barry Collum"

Subject: me again.

Date: Mon, Mar 29, 1999, 6:50 PM

Just wanted to really let you know that I REALLY appreciate this site of yours. -Collum

Reply from the webmaster

Date: March 29, 1999

Dear Barry, You are welcome. I posted your last comment on in the comments section. You are the lone comment. I appreciated your comment very much.


From: "Walter Schirmer"

To: webmaster

Subject: Additional information

Date: Wed, Apr 14, 1999, 3:18 PM

I have extensively searched the Web and am grateful for your information. Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman isn't mentioned on most of the "Black" sites I tried, but I've managed to build a "net" of connections. Let me know if you're interested. Thanks again for posting!

Reply from the webmaster

I'm interested.


From: "tgatzke"

To: <webmaster


Date: Sat, May 8, 1999, 1:27 PM

I am seeking information on an appeal by slaves to the Royal Governor of Massachusetts. Can you help me? Thanks

Reply from the webmaster

Date: May 10, 1999

All I can do is post your comment on my web site in the comments section. Wish I could help you more but maybe someone will read your question.


From: swpub


Subject: mumbet

Date: Mon, Oct 11, 1999, 5:11 PM

Dear Brady Barrows:

I've found your website on Mumbet very helpful (and inspiring). I am writing a book for John Wiley & Sons that features biographical sketches of about 14 extraordinary colonial women -- she, of course, is one of them. (I had only seen brief notations about her in a women's history book, and was happy to see her name in cyber-lights.) I'm trying to locate an address, number or e-mail address for the Masssachusetts Historical Society, so that I can request permission to use the wonderful oil painting of Mumbet. For some reason it's available via long-distance info -- and can't find on web. If you have that and don't mind sharing, I'd be grateful. If not, don't worry. I'll find it. Mostly I wanted to say congratulations on a terrific site! Mary R. Furbee

Dear Mary R. Furbee:

Glad you enjoyed the site. It is about time that someone else places Mumbet in history. The Massachusetts Historical Society is in Boston. There is a link on my web page to their web site. It is You can see an enlarged image of the 1811 watercolor of Mumbet on my web site. I had to get permission from MHS to use it and pay a fee. Her image is being used on some other web sites without permission. Much success with your book. I would be interested in knowing more about it when published. ---BB


From: swpub

To: "Brady Barrows" < JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >

Subject: re: Re: mumbet

Date: Fri, Oct 22, 1999, 1:02 PM

Dear Brady: Do you happen to have any idea what Mumbett's daughter's name was, and if she went with her to the Sheffields? Do you happen to know what happened to Brom? Thanks much, Mary R. Furbee, Writer & Instructor, 1 Bryson Street, Morgantown, WV 26505


Reply From: webmaster

Date: Oct. 23. 1999

Mary R. Furbee: Two very good questions which I have wondered about. I aam still looking into it myself. If you find out, let me know. ---Brady


Reply From:swpub

Date: Oct. 23. 1999

Sure thing, MRF


From: Mmse44

To: webmaster

Date: Wed, Jan 5, 2000, 11:54 PM

Dear Website,

Why was the bracelet so important to mumbet? I liked your website because it is cool and interesring. I couldn't find any other website on Mumbet. your friendly reasearcher, Sara

Date: Jan.7, 2000

Sara: All I know is that the bracelet was originally a necklace which was given to Mumbet pictured in the 1811 watercolor that she is wearing. Catherine Sedgewick had the necklace made into the bracelet and the Mass. Historical Society has possession of the bracelet. There are links to Mumbet on my website which you can refer and many articles which you can look up.

Brady Barrows


From: "Mary Wilds"

To: <webmaster


Date: Sat, Jan 29, 2000, 11:54 AM

I was quite pleased ... and surprised ... to find your website for Mumbet. My new book, "Mumbet: The Life and Times of Elizabeth Freeman," a young adult biography, was published in June. (Your website was up and running after I did my research unfortunately). Glad to see it is here and wonder how I might obtain an advertisement for the book on your website. I look forward to hearing from you. Mary Wilds

From: Brady Barrows

To: Mary Wilds

Sent: Monday, January 31, 2000 6:00 PM

Subject: Re:

Dear Ms Wilds:

Glad you did the book. i am also planning a book as well, a fictional account on her life. My site was registered a year ago this month. How did you come up with the idea of writing about Mumbet if you did not know of my site? She is not known about in most circles.

I would be very pleased to offer your book on my website.


From: "Mary Wilds"

To: "Brady Barrows"

Subject: Re:

Date: Tue, Feb 1, 2000, 11:00 AM

Hi Brady,

I came up with the idea for the book by chance. My husband was on his way home from the airport (on the bus) when he happened to sit next to a curator from the African-American History Museum in Boston. She told him the story of Mumbet. About a year later (I'm a writer by trade) I happened to speak with a publisher regarding another matter. I mentioned the story of Mumbet and he asked if I'd be willing to do a young adult biography on her. It turned into a story about slavery in the north as well.

Avisson Press is a commercial publisher and the book is on but you can also order it from me. (I don't charge shipping costs.) Probably the advertising-and-yearly-fee arrangement for a place on your website would work best. Or perhaps the name of the site. Why don't you give me some ideas about fees and we can go from there. Mary Wilds


From: Brady Barrows <mailto: JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >

To: Mary Wilds <mailto: JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >

Sent: Tuesday, February 1, 2000 9:26 PM

Subject: Re:


It is interesting how you came to write a book on Mumbet. Her time is finally arriving where she will get the recognition she deserves in history which has been ignored far too long.

Are you internet savvy?

If you just want to advertise the book on my site, here is my offer....


From: "Antonio Harris"


Subject: Black Slave, male, that sued

Date: Wed, Feb 16, 2000, 8:00 PM

What black man, who was a Virginia slave, sued for his freedom after becoming a resident living on free soil in Missouri?

From: Brady Barrows

Sent:Wednesday, February 16, 2000 5:24 PM

To:Antonio Harris

Subject: Re: Black Slave, male, that sued


I give up, who? Brady Barrows - webmaster for


From: "Antonio Harris"

To: webmaster

Sent:February 17, 2000

Subject: Re: Black Slave, male, that sued


Hey I was asking you, but I think it was Dred Scott! ----Antonio Harris


From: CrAzYMeL89

To: webmaster

Date: Sun, Apr 30, 2000, 12:12 PM

Hey i need to know when mumbet was born and who her sister was if that wouldnt be any trouble i cnat find anything on her exept your page! Thanks

From: Brady Barrows, webmaster

Date: May 1, 2000

No trouble. The answer to your two questions are on my web site. 1742 and Lizzy. Check it out. Brady Barrows - webmaster for


From: Andrea Doremus


Subject: Mumbet's time

Date: Tue, May 16, 2000, 8:42 AM

Dear Mr. Barrows,

Your website is a real contribution and yes, your right...Mumbet's time is here. When I began to do research back in February for a lesson plan I'm working on for 5th - 12th grades, your site was the first one I found. Thank you for all your hard work.

I'm a little concerned about what seems to be your desire to make money off of Mumbet's information because it seems a little bit like once again "European American man making money from the life of African American woman"....BUT, you have put in the tremendous effort to get the site to where it is so I guess you certainly deserve something.

Congratulations on getting the word out there and for having the business/technical savvy to be first on the search lists!

Andrea Doremus Cuetara

teacher - Boston, MA


From: Brady Barrows

Date: May 16, 2000


Dear Ms. Cuetara,

Thanks for your comments, which I will post on my site. As to making money off of Mumbet, there are three authors who are doing just that, two of which are women, and so far, I haven't received a dime off of my site. I recently became aware of how to sell books on Mumbet through's affiliate program and hope to sell some of their books. The commission is very small and yes, the purpose of this site is commercial. That is what a dot com is, commercial. Do you have the same 'concern' about an author making money off of Mumbet? Even educators who make books used in schools make money off their efforts. The National Women Hall of Fame also sells books on their web site, and I hope they will be selling the same books on Mumbet I am offering on my web site if they accept the nomination of Mumbet to their elite hall of fame. So far, I have spent several hundred dollars to post this site on the internet, and an enormous amount of time researching Mumbet and using web authoring tools to post it on the internet. And I am happy you have acknowledged that Mumbet's time has come and appreciate your comment which will be posted for the world to read. Brady Barrows, webmaster for


From: Andrea Doremus

To: webmaster

Subject: Making money

Date: Wed, May 17, 2000, 8:24 AM

Dear Mr. Barrows,

Thank you for making this a public discussion because I think it is an important and subtle question. Once again, I think you have done a very great service for the larger community by researching and providing this information. I also appreciate that you are selling (and hopefully, yes, making a profit, albeit small) the Mumbet books online. It's wonderful that the books get visibility and are promoted. I was very impressed that you had sent in nominations to the National Women's Hall of Fame...I had begun the process (at your suggestion) but then gave up half way through because I "didn't have the time right then." Yeah, yeah.

My concern about making money came in response to your comments to author Mary Wilds. When you spoke about selling the domain name to her and talk of movie rights and all that. At that point the focus seemed to shift from Elizabeth Freeman, human being, to Elizabeth Freeman, potential valuable commodity (even if it's a very worthwhile and respected commodity). You would never even know if the purchaser of would do something positive with it. Perhaps I'm off-base, but this is what my concern was specifically. It's not that I think you shouldn't be the one to make the money, if there's money to be made...because you were indeed the one who had the idea and made the effort to create I wouldn't even have a concern about advertising banners because you deserve to get paid for your time and effort in getting the word out. I just think we should try to be aware of the dynamics. This is what I am thinking.

Sincerely, Andrea Doremus


From: Brady Barrows, webmaster

Date: May 17, 2000


Ms. Cuetara,

Mumbet is unknown in the literary world and in the academic world because her story is only now becoming recognized as much more interesting especially because of the outstanding qualities of her character that enabled her to overcome the great obstacle of being a slave. Catherine Sedgwick who knew Mumbet wrote about her remarkable personality. There are a scant few others of Mumbet's contemporaries who wrote about her, all in the Sedgwick household. There is a significant number of researchers who have written about her. While I understand your concern about Mumbet's being a 'worthwhile and respected commodity' and my site turning into the hands of those who may ruin and tarnish her image, I can only assure you that my site speaks for itself about the respect I have for Mumbet.

This week I spoke to a black woman who works in the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield which is for battered wives and abused children and mentioned to her my site. We discussed Whoopi Goldberg as Mumbet in a movie and she felt the way I do that she would be perfect for the part. As I pointed out to Mary Wilds, when Whoopi Goldberg decides she wants to make a movie about Mumbet she may want my site more than her and Elizabeth Freeman becomes as you say, a 'valuable commodity.' Now if Whoopi Goldberg makes a movie on Mumbet that would be nice, because then everyone will know about Mumbet and she will be a household word. I think I could safely turn the site over to Whoopi and it would be in the right hands.

By the way, it is nice you read the correspondence Ms Wilds sent me. I waited for her response and she never answered. I didn't think it proper to send her any more email since she never answered my last email. After some time passed, I thought about what she said concerning and found out how to sell her book through them, so she has free advertisement about her book which doesn't cost her a dime. So who is really winning on this deal anyway? gives me pennies while they give Ms Wilds dollars for each book sold. So Ms. Wilds got what she wanted for free.

As to selling to someone and being concerned about the dynamics, remember dot com is commercial. Dot org is organization. I don't have an agenda, as the National Womens Hall of Fame has, but my pursuit is worthwhile. The internet is a moving dynamic ethical plethora reflecting mankind's quandary. Though it is regulated somewhat, the freedom allowed on the internet is what causes this quandary. I think this is what you are experiencing when you came across my site, and became concerned about the ethics of making money on the internet.

Here is one for you that you may not know about. If you write a book, the internet allows you to become the publisher. You no longer need to have your book published by someone else. You can sell each book, one at a time over the internet and send the book any way you like, via a download, or on a web site, a pdf, or even through the U.S. Postal Service. How do I know this? Because that is exactly what I am doing on another site. So far I have sold over 60 copies. Not exactly a best seller, but I am doing this without having anyone publish my book, since I am the publisher! The internet is changing the way we receive information. I hope this helps you understand what we are discussing, the dynamics of free enterprise over the internet, part of which is making money.

Brady Barrows, webmaster for


From: Lucinda L. Damon-Bach

To: webmaster

Subject: correction/clarification

Date: Fri, Jun 2, 2000, 11:57 AM

Dear Barry,

I've just read through all the email and enjoyed going through your site on Mumbet. I am especially interested in Mumbet because of my research on Catharine Maria Sedgwick, who was one of the Sedgwick children who gave Mumbet her nickname. To them, she was their substitute mother, which you probably already know. But it might be useful to explain more about her relationship to the children, and to include references to Sedgwick's works about Mumbet, namely, "Slavery in New England," published in 1853, as well as "Our Burial Place" (there are others, as well, but those two come to mind first). These stories are now--or soon will be--available on-line at the fledgling Sedgwick Society

web-site: http//


There is a bit of misinformation about Catharine Sedgwick on your site, which I believe you may have gotten from the "Eminent Berkshirites" site (since the wording and mistake is similar). Catharine did not run a school in Lenox, her sister-in-law did; she helped out, but spent most of her time writing. And, for your information, at the upcoming Catharine Maria Sedgwick Symposium, June 9-11, 2000 in Stockbridge, Mass., there will be a performance of a new one-act play by Melville scholar Laurie Robertson-Lorant about the friendship between Catharine Sedgwick and Mumbet ("'Good Mother, Farewell': The Friendship of Catharine Maria Sedgwick and Mumbet [Elizabeth Freeman]"). Thanks for your hard work on Mumbet, and for clarifying the above for your readers.

Professor Lucinda Damon-Bach, Ph.D.

English Department, Salem State College, and

Founder of the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society


Lucinda L. Damon-Bach


Salem State College


Reply From: Brady Barrows

Date: Fri. June 2, 2000


Dear Ms Lucinda L. Damon-Bach:


Thanks so much for the clarifications which I will first post on the comments on Mumbet and then will change the part you mention about Catharine on her page on my site. There is a lot more information about Mumbet which needs to be posted, but that is for a future project when I get the time and motivation. Thanks for the information on the Symposium. I will check out your site on Catharine.

Brady Barrows - webmaster for


From: "emt" <

To: <webmaster

Subject: MUMBETT

Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2000 17:05:12 -0500

hey i just wanted to say that this website helped me out a great deal with this report i had to do. My teacher had gave me a website that is the best i guess, but the URL no longer is in service so with that i searhed and found your website thank you very much !!!!

TO: emf

you are welcome...

Brady Barrows, webmaster for


From:  "Andrea Doremus"

To:  webmaster

Subject:  clarification

Date:  Fri, 8 Jun 2001

Thanks for the clarification in your "comments" area about Catherine Sedgwick NOT running the school in Lenox. The writer says it was her sister-in-law instead. I was just about to put the erroneous information (which I got off the internet at a Sedgwick site) in a lesson plan that will be published nationally. Teaches us about the need to double check any information off the internet (or probably anywhere for that matter).

Thanks again for your excellent site and for "saving my butt."


Andrea Doremus

Brady Barrows responded:

I also mention the same point on my page about Catherine Sedgwick, giving Ms Lucinda L. Damon-Bach credit for the clarification. You're welcome.


From:  "Mary Rodd Furbee"


Subject:  col/mumbet book

Date:  Sat, 23 Jun 2001

Hi, I thought the books on colonial and frontier women of America below might be of interest. Elizabeth Freeman has her own chapter! Thanks much. MRF


-- They were puritan preachers,eastern aristocrats, native chiefs, and backwoods settlers. They were English, Scottish, African and Indian. They were rich, poor, slave and free. They were committed to a rebel cause -- or loyal to a distant king.

Outrageous Women of Colonial America by Mary Furbee of Morgantown, West Virginia, features several remarkable founding mothers from throughout the 13 colonies. Published by John Wiley & Sons, the paperback book is geared

for children age 10-15 and was released in March.

Shawnee Capitive: The Story of Mary Ingles, a second book by Furbee, has also been released by Morgan Reynolds Publishing of North Carolina. The book features a western Virginia woman captured by the Shawnee during the French and Indian War, who made a dramatic journey back home,by foot in winter. The Ingles book  is the first release in a series of forthcoming hardback

biographies of frontier appalachian women for children ages 8-12. Other books in the series will profile Nancy Ward, beloved woman of the Cherokee, and Anne Bailey, a frontier scout on early western frontier.

Outrageous Women of Colonial America features 14 women of diverse regions, races, professions and backgrounds.Some of the featured women, for example First Lady Abigail Adams and religious dissident Anne Hutchinson, are well-known historical figures.

Others profiled are comparatively obsure, for example the Wampanoag chief Weetamoo of New England who led her tribe in battle against encroaching white settlers, Anne Bailey a female scout on thewestern Virginia frontier during the "Indian Wars," Esther Reed, a

Philadelphia-based fundraiser for the Americans, and the Loyalist Peggy Arnold, as much a spy as her notorious husband, Benedict.

Furbee is a clinical instructor and public-relations specialist at the West Virginia University School of Journalism, and this is her fourth

children's book. Her other books include Women of the American Revolution (Lucent) and her forthcoming books include Anne Bailey: Frontier Scout (Morgan Reynolds); Wild Rose: the Story of Nancy Ward (Morgan Reynolds); and

Outrageous Women of the American Frontier (John Wiley).




Mary Rodd Furbee, WVU Clinical Instructor/Author

112 Martin Hall, School of Journalism

West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV 26506

1-304-293-3505, ext. 5403




From:  "Ann-Elizabeth Barnes"


Subject:  Mumbet

Date:  Fri, 6 Jul 2001

I live in South Egremont and recently began giving tours of the Col. Ashley House and of course discovered for the first time the story of Mumbet. I am fascinated by her story, her courage, her sense of self, her intelligence and feel her time has come. She is a wonderful role model for children. My children who went to school here in Berkshire County never heard of her and I feel a real opportunity was lost in not connecting them to someone as important as Mumbet who actually lived in their home town! So, I would like to get together with you as my passion has become Mumbet and I also would like to create a made for TV movie about her life and times. My own Great great great great grandfather was Aaron Root who was a frequent visitor to Col. Ashley's House and a fellow Selectman and crafter of the Sheffield Declaration and no doubt an admirer of Mumbet and her courage and wisdom! My number is below and I have yours from the website! May this be the beginning of a successful bringing to the world the word of Mumbet!

In common striving!



Brady Barrows responded:


Dear Ann-Elizabeth Root-Barnes-Meyers:


Thanks for your email. What do you have in mind?


From:  "Ann-Elizabeth Barnes"

To:  "Brady Barrows"

Subject:  Re: Mumbet

Date:  Fri, 6 Jul 2001 21

You might well ask. I have no idea except that Cady Landa said that you had written a script and were looking for ways to get the word out and I thought two heads might be better than one? You live in Housatonic, I in Egremont so it wouldn't be too much effort!

Ann-Elizabeth Root-Barnes-Meyers


Brady Barrows responded:


Dear Ann-Elizabeth Root-Barnes-Meyers:

This could be interesting. I just recently moved into Great Barrington. I kept the Housatonic number which forwards to my new number.

A screenplay is my next project but I am slow, but there is no hurry since Mumbet has been a Berkshire secret since 1781. The internet may change this. Were you thinking of producing this yourself, or what? There is enough talent in the area to accomplish it, but would take a lot of time, energy and money. It could be shot with digital video.

Do you work for Very impressive site.



From:  "Ann-Elizabeth Barnes"

To:  "Brady Barrows" < JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >

Subject:  Re: Mumbet on TV?

Date:  Sat, 7 Jul 2001

I am an inspired neophyte who sees the potential of the Mumbet story. I would like to be part of a team that strategizes getting her story out. I could play any number of roles. Did you do the Mumbet website? My husband worked for Metalogica and now we use them as our hosting service. Joel Goodman, the proprietor, does webdesign as well as hosting and a multitude of other stuff. I am off to work at the 18th Century Day celebration in Sheffield, always looking for more background on Mumbet to give her context and create a whole picture of her life and times

Thanks for getting back to me



Brady Barrows Responded:

Yes I made the Mumbet site and hopefully it will make Mumbet famous.



From: "Booth, Roger"

To: "webmaster

Subject: Mumbet Translation

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 10:57:06 -0500


Dear Sir/Madam;

I am an Englishman living in Massachusetts, who has just stumbled across the website and the fascinating story of Elizabeth Freeman.

When I looked at the transcript, I noticed one word near the end that had not been deciphered. This is the phrase in question "John Ashley Jun. Esq. Recognizes with [s***ties] as the law Directs...". I have no access to the original documentation, but I would hazard a strong guess that the missing word is 'sureties'. This fits the number of letters and the contextual meaning of the document.

Please let me know if you have any questions,

Roger Booth

Brady Barrows responded:

thanks, I will note your correction/addition on a revision.



From: "Will Garrison" < JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >

Reply-To: "Will Garrison" < JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >


Subject: Mumbet stamp

Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 11:29:54 -0500


Brady Barrows:

We met briefly at Mary Wilds' lecture at Sheffield last summer. I enjoyed looking through your website. I'm writing to ask if it's all right with you for me to post a request on the comments page. The request is for anyone interested in Mumbet to write to the U.S. Postal Service. Prompted by the Col. Ashley House advisory committee, I'm submitting Elizabeth Freeman as a subject for a U.S. Postal Service stamp. It's a long process, largely done in secret (the Postal Service does not respond to submissions, one only knows of success when stamps arrive at local post office). The more folks who write in, the better. I attach the copy of the letter I sent to the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee, c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service. I have permission from the Massachusetts Historical Society to use the painting of Mumbet.




Will Garrison, Historic Resources Manager

The Trustees of Reservations

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Brady Barrows responded:


will do.


From: "Freeman, Elizabeth"

To: webmaster

Subject: MUMBET

Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 11:39:33 -0500









Brady Barrows Responded:


Dear Ms Freeman,


Your message is posted on the world wide web on my site.

From: "Andrea Doremus Cuetara" < JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING >

To: webmaster

Subject: postage stamp

Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2002 23:28:54 -0400


Oh, I just love the idea of an Elizabeth Freeman postage stamp and will follow Will Garrison's suggestions for action!! Hope everyone does. That's great that he already got the MHS permission to use the painting.


Thanks for all your continued work.


Andrea Doremus Cuetara

12 Bigelow Street

Boston, MA 02135




If you want to make a comment fill out the contact form.


Ashley House

Ashley House

Ashley House Colonel John Ashley House, 1735 Ashley Falls, Massachusetts National Natural Landmark
The Trustes of Reservations
Interior of the Ashley House

Tradition has it that the Sheffield Declaration of 1773, a statement of grievances against English rule, was drafted in Colonel Ashley's study and that Ashley's black servant, Mumbet, whetted her hunger for freedom on liberal ideas she overheard at the meeting. In a 1781 trial, Mumbet won her freedom and left the house forever. The Ashley House is available for viewing by the public.

Image to the left is the interior of the Ashely House

More info

Berkshire Web Info

Mumbet on a Postage Stamp

Help put Mumbet on a Postage Stamp!

The Trustees of Reservations, which owns and operates the Col. John Ashley House as a historic house museum, is nominating Mumbet as a subject for a U.S. Postal Service stamp. This is a long process, and we need all the help we can get.  Please either write the U.S. Postal Service directly (see below) or contact Will Garrison.Thanks! And thank you to for publicizing this effort.




Will Garrison, Historic Resources Manager
The Trustees of Reservations
The Mission House
PO Box 792
Stockbridge MA 01362


Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service
475 LíEnfant Plaza, SW
Room 4474E
Washington DC 20260-2437

Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee:

I am writing to submit Elizabeth Freeman as a subject for a postage stamp. Elizabeth Freeman, also known as 'Mumbet,' was born a slave in the Hudson River valley in the early 18th century, then owned for many years by the Ashley family in Western Massachusetts. The Ashley Family owned much of Sheffield, and Colonel John Ashley held many government posts.

Freeman learned of the Massachusetts constitution, passed in 1780, which said in part "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights." Represented by attorneys Theodore Sedgwick and Tapping Reeve, Freeman sued in the Berkshire County Court of Common Pleas. The suit was for recovery of property, on the grounds that she was not the legitimate property of the Ashleys. According to one contemporary observer, Sedgwick and Reeve 'argued that no antecedent law had established slavery, and that the laws that seemed to suppose it were the offspring of error in the legislators and that such laws even if they had existed, were annulled by the new constitution.[ The jury decided that Freeman was not, and had never been, the legal servant of Ashley. Ashley appealed, but dropped the case in the fall.]

Elizabeth Freeman continued to be a respected member of the community, working for the Sedgwick family for many years. She had another brush with history during Shayís Rebellion, when she protected the Sedgwick home from the rebels. Freeman died in 1829 and is buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Find enclosed a recent biography written about Elizabeth Freeman. There is one known image of Freeman, held by the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. They are willing to have this image used on a stamp.

Thank you for your consideration.


Will Garrison, Historic Resources Manager

[copy of the is letter is by permission of Will Garrison and submitted to which we have graciously complied]


American Heritage

The Slave Who Sued for Freedom, by Jon Swan, American Heritage, March 1990, by permission of the author
American Heritage - Mumbet Page 1

American Heritage - Mumbet Page 2

American Heritage - Mumbet Page 3

American Heritage - Mumbet Page 4

Mumbet - Mini Series



A Television Series or Mini-Series


Created by

Brady Barrows

© Copyright 2000 Brady Barrows

Registered Writers Guild of America, West

"Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute's freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it-- just to stand one minute on god' airth a free woman--I would."

---- Mumbet

as told by Catharine Maria Sedgwick

As printed in Bentley's Miscellany XXXIV (1853)

"Slavery in New England" p. 420




Elizabeth 'Mumbet' Freeman was the first black woman to gain her freedom in court in the newly formed United States. Her story is a remarkable one that needs to be told. This television series is based on the accuracy and drama that historians have unearthed. It will make Mumbet famous, a folk hero that is inspirational. Her character is equal to Daniel Boone (1734 - 1820), Davy Crockett (1786 - 1836) and John Henry (1840 - 1875). This television series will inspire the ballad of Mumbet.


The story of Mumbet is a mixture of folk history and fact which historians love to study and makes a recipe for creative minds to embellish in a television series. The primary source of information on this attractive character is one of the children that Mumbet raised because Mumbet was her substitute mother. Another child she raised wrote Mumbet's epitaph on her gravestone that exists today in the family plot and reads:



known by the name of MUMBET

Died Dec. 28, 1829

Her supposed age was 85 Years

She was born a slave and remained a slave for nearly thirty years. She could neither read nor write, yet in her own sphere she had no superior nor equal. She neither wasted time nor property. She never violated a trust, nor failed to perform a duty. In every situation of domestic trial, she was the most efficient helper, and the tenderest friend.

Good Mother, farewell."

[Epitaph Written by Charles Sedgwick]



Since it was unusual for families during this period to write about the character of one of their servants we can paint a picture today of Mumbet's unusual personality that reveals a superior understanding and wit that transcends time making her a superior woman. This television series allows others to appreciate Mumbet's eminence. While she was a slave she was known as Bett or Betty. Later after her freedom she became known as Mumbet. The setting of this television series centers in the Theodore Sedgwick home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts which home still exists. Mumbet lives in the household as a free servant and substitute mother for Theodore's children who named Elizabeth Freeman affectionately 'Mumbet.' The first episode takes place in 1811. Mumbet is 70 years old and will tell her story, narrating each episode in flashbacks. Mumbet is sitting for her portrait being painted by Susan Sedgwick, one of the characters in the series, which miniature portrait exists in the Massachusetts Historical Society. Susan is painting while her sister-in-law, Catharine Sedgwick, is sitting taking some notes.








A flashback in Mumbet's life, some of which are mentioned later.


Mumbet died in 1829 so there may be episodes of Mumbet's life from 1811 to her death. While Stockbridge sets the center stage, the series will flash back to Claverack [New York] , Ashley Falls [Massachusetts], Washington, D.C. and Boston. The characters in this series are many and come from all walks of life and will be rich with the history of this period. There will be names we are familiar with and some we have never heard.


According to folklore, Mumbet was born a slave and was acquired with her sister Lizzy by a Dutchman, Pietre Hoogeboom from Claverack, New York at the slave market in Albany. Sometime after 1758, after Pietre's death, Mumbet and her sister were acquired by Colonel John Ashley and his wife Hannah, who was Pietre's daughter, as a result of the execution of Pietre's will. Mumbet would have been around the age of 14. Some suggest she came to the Ashley home when she was six months old. Mumbet served as a slave in the Ashley home with her sister till the age of 37. The home where she served still exists and is the oldest home in Berkshire County.


Mumbet had a common law husband, Brom. Brom will be a rich character to develop and will allow for a romantic episode, a flashback called 'Brom & Bett,' which is set in Ashley Falls. Brom would be an essential character in the series.


Catharine Sedgwick claims that the deciding factor that motivated Mumbet to freedom was that Mumbet had been listening in on conversations between Colonel Ashley, Theodore Sedgwick, Ethan Allen, Tapping Reeve and others who had met in the Ashley home where she served these men food and drink, listening to conversations that formed a part of the basis for American Independence.


In 1773 these men wrote what has become known as the

'Sheffield Resolves' which declared that "Mankind in a State of Nature are equal, free and independent of each other." Mumbet was attending these men when these words were spoken in her presence. Colonel Ashley before this was loyal to the British, but this was a statement of grievances against England and has been noted as one of the early protests of the kind in the colonies. Later it became known as the Sheffield Declaration of Independence. One of the 'Resolves' which Mumbet heard spoken was:


"Resolved that the great end of political society is to secure in

a more effectual manner those rights and

privileges wherewith God and Nature have made us free."

---Sheffield: Frontier Town, Priess, p.172

Later Colonel Ashley took a leading part in the Revolutionary War in the Berkshires which certainly Mumbet was effected by the call to freedom which she no doubt felt applied to her just as much as anyone else.


Catharine gives a picture of Mumbet as a Negro woman of high intelligence who was influenced by discussions of freedom and equality and was moved to seek escape from her slavery. Catharine relates that sometime after the close of the War of Independence, Mumbet happened by the meeting house in Sheffield and heard a reading of the Declaration of Independence. The next day after the blow meant for Lizzy [another flashback mentioned later] she walked with her young child, little Bet, the four miles from the Ashley home to young Theodore Sedgwick's law office on a cold, wet day, trudging through the mud and entered into the room and said,



"Sir...I heard that paper read yesterday that says all

men are born equal, and that every man

has a right to freedom... I am not a dumb critter;

won't the law give me any freedom?"

--- Bentley's Miscellany 34 (1853)

"Slavery in New England" p. 418



History confirms that Mumbet won her freedom. Sedgwick was assisted by Tapping Reeve from Litchfield, Connecticut who formed the first law school in America. She was one of the first slaves to be set free in Massachusetts and the newly formed United States of America, at the very least, the first black woman to be set free.


This episode of the courtroom trial by a jury has drama, while based upon the court record which still exists in Boston, allows for certain artistic license. Brom would be involved since the record indicates his name on the record along with Bet. Some very important lawyers of the period were brought into the case, not only Tapping Reeve with Theodore Sedgwick for Mumbet, but also David Noble, and Jonathan Canfield for the defense of Colonel Ashley.


After Mumbet is declared free, Colonel Ashley offers to employ Mumbet in the home, but she decides instead, as a free woman to work in the home of the lawyer that helped her gain her freedom. At this point she takes on the name Elizabeth Freeman. The Sedgwick home is filled with children whom Mumbet raises as a substitute mother since Theodore Sedgwick's wife, Pamela is sickly. Catharine Sedgwick relates some episodes in the home where Mumbet's character is revealed.


Once episode worthy of a flashback involved the youngest child, Charles Sedgwick, who wrote Mumbet's epitaph. When Charles was born, his mother was confined to her bed. Theodore Sedgwick, upon looking at his son remarked,


He is not worth raising



We shall see....

Mumbet raised and nurtured the child and after four months the Judge returned from one of his trips and upon seeing the child, according to Catharine, 'tears came in the Judge's eyes,' and he took a silver crown out of his pocket and gave it to Mumbet who kept the crown until she died.


While in the Ashley home, there is an event in the kitchen that makes for an interesting flashback episode, revealing her marvelous personality. Colonel John Ashley was a rich gentleman, and a justice of the common pleas, holding a high status in the community, a warm, understanding human being who held compassion for all men. His wife Hannah, in contrast with her husband is a different sort.


There is evidence that Colonel Ashley and his wife, Hannah, may have had differing views on slavery. Hannah, of Dutch descent may have been influenced by the slavery that was more firmly rooted in New York where attitudes and slave laws were harsher and more discriminatory than in Massachusetts, where slavery was not firmly established and laws were less severe. Colonel Ashley was born in Massachusetts and may have been influenced by the English view of slavery which regarded Negroes, not as property, but along the same lines as white indentured servants. So there is evidence that the two had differing views on the treatment of slaves. Mumbet always referred to Colonel Ashley as 'master' or her 'old master' while referring to Hannah as 'madam.' Catharine Maria Sedgwick who was raised by Mumbet expressed her view about John and Hannah in a series of comparisons:

"The plan of Providence to prevent monstrous

discrepancies, by mating the tall with the short,

the fat with the lean, the sour with the sweet...

was illustrated by... [Colonel] Ashley with his help-meet.

He was the gentlest, most benign men; she a shrew

untameable...He had pity, tolerance and forgiveness

for every human error...There was no such word

in her vocabulary... Her justice was without scales,

as well as blind,...He was the kindest of masters,

she the most despotic of mistresses."

--- Bentley's Miscellany 34 (1853)

"Slavery in New England" p. 419



This episode in the kitchen which Mumbet reveals in a flashback concerns a young girl who was in trouble who came to the Ashley house for help. Mumbet is a deeply caring persona who brings the girl into the home and asks her to wait in the kitchen with her till Colonel Ashley returns. Mrs. Ashley finds the girl in the kitchen and is offended, but Mumbet determines to defend the girl. As Catharine Sedgwick wrote, this is what Mumbet said happened:

MUMBET [narrating]


"When Madam had got half across the kitchen,

in full sight of the child, she turned to me,

and her eyes flashing like a cat's in the dark,

she asked me 'what that baggage wanted?'

'To speak to master.' 'What does she want

to say to your master?' 'I don't know, ma'm.'

'I know, she added - and there was no foul thing

she didn't call the child."

----Bentley's Miscellany XXXIV (1853)

"Slavery in New England"


Mrs. Ashley ordered the girl from the house, but Mumbet stood her ground.



Sit still, child

Hannah Ashley turns red with anger, her neck muscles tense













Child, I told you to sit and wait for the Judge ,

who will hear you. Don't you worry...


If the gal has a complaint to make, she has a right

to see the judge; that's lawful, and stands to reason besides



"Madam knew when I set my foot down, I kept it down,"

Even though Mrs. Ashley 'rose as a thunder storm' and left the kitchen in a frenzy, the troubled girl got to see Colonel Ashley. The story goes that the girl reveals to the Judge that she had been raped by her father. But Mumbet's inner quality of justice and honor are evident from this episode in her life. Even though Mumbet could neither read nor write, her inner sense of what was legal and right was firmer than her mistress.


This leads us to the event which prompted Mumbet to sue for freedom creating another flashback episode in the kitchen in the Ashley house. There were a number of reasons why Mumbet was motivated to be set free, but folklore has it that it was this incident in the kitchen involving her younger sister Lizzy. Stories about Lizzy indicate that she was not the servant Mumbet was and that her sister usually finished what Lizzy had started. Bett watched over her sickly sister as a 'lioness does over her cubs.' Hannah was in the kitchen one day where she discovered a wheat cake Lizzy made for herself out of the family dough. Angry at the 'thief,' Hannah picked up a large iron shovel, hot from cleaning the oven, and attempted to strike Lizzy but Mumbet placed her arm between them and received the blow which resulted in a permanent scar on her forearm that Mumbet liked to show people to indicate the brutality of her mistress. Mumbet relates about this event:




"Madam never again laid her hand on Lizzy.

I had a bad arm all winter, but Madam got

the worst of it. I never covered the wound,

and when people said to me, before Madam,

'Why Betty! what ails your arm?' I only answered

- 'Ask missis!' " ---

Bentley's Miscellany (1853) "Slavery in New England"

It was supposedly after this event that Mumbet carried her child, Little Bet to Sedgwick's law office to ask him to defend her claim of freedom.


Mumbet's sense of caring and nurturing came across clearly into the hearts of the children she raised as evidenced by their written remarks concerning her. At least three of the children have written about her character. Another episode is worthy of a flashback involving Shay's Rebellion.


Daniel Shay and his men were not happy with the newly formed government and the taxes such a government levied against its citizens and basically this rowdy bunch of men used it as an excuse for looting and pillaging the wealthy. Daniel Shay's men were on a looting spree heading toward Stockbridge and the town was a stir with the news. Mumbet was home with the children and Mrs. Sedgwick was sick in bed while Judge Sedgwick was away on a trip. Mumbet prepared to defend the home from these insurgents. She proved to be just as courageous and determined in resisting these rebels as she did in defending her sister Lizzy from Mrs. Ashley's wrath.


According the folklore, Mumbet first hid the good wine in the cellar and hid the silver and valuables in her personal trunk in her room. She put the children with their mother in her bedroom. She replaced the wine with some sour port and the silver cups with pewter. One story is related that she bolted the door and threatened to pour a kettle of boiling beer on the first of the rebels to enter the home. Another story is that she welcomed them into the home with graciousness and hospitality, offering these dirty scoundrels to have a seat and drink some of the Judge's 'best wine.' The men spit out the sour port claiming that this was the worst wine they had ever drank and that the Judge had poor taste in drinking. Upon looting the home the rebels took the pewter and whatever they wanted, but upon heading into Mrs. Sedgwick's room, Mumbet stood her ground and said they could not bother the sick woman nor the children and would have to get past her first. The men checked the room to see if it was true what she said and Mumbet allowed a look, but they did not bother the children or Mrs. Sedgwick. The men were about to search Mumbet's room and she immediately had entered the room before them and sat on the trunk which contained the family valuables, and since she was sitting on it, one of the men demanded the key to the trunk. It is said that Mumbet 'laughed in scorn' and said:



Ah, Sam Cooper, you and your fellows are no

better than I thought you. You call me 'wench'

and 'nigger,' and you are not above rummaging in my chest....

At this point, Mumbet relates that the leader of the insurgents 'turned and slunk away like a whipped cur as he was!' After this the rebels were about to take the Judge's favorite horse that was in the barn. Mumbet told the men that she was 'skittish' and that she was the only one that could put a rein and saddle on the mare. The men agreed to this and when Mumbet put a rein and saddle on the horse and led them to the men she had in her hand a pin hidden.

She then said:



Here's your horse. Now, careful, you'll scare her




Now, look what you done! I told you not

to scare her. What'd you do that for?

I had her all tame and nice and you

had to do that. Why you'll be to sundown

looking for that horse. Who knows where she lit to....



Later the last stand of the rebels was in a field in Sheffield and were put down by the new American Army led by Colonel Ashley's son, General John Ashley, who took the rebels to Springfield for incarceration. Thus the end of Shay's Rebellion.


However, the incident with Mumbet illustrates her unsurpassed fidelity to her employers and that she was not naturally rebellious herself in a properly regulated household and shows a wonderful balance in her nature.


One other flashback episode to embellish could also be used to the end of the series is the gold bead necklace worn by Mumbet in the miniature painting that exists in the Masschusetts Historical Society in Boston. An episode could be told about how she was given the necklace. We do know that at her death the necklace was given to Catharine Maria Sedgwick who later made the remaining gold beads into a bracelet with the inscription 'Mumbet' engraved in the inside clasp that is the property now of the MHS.


Mumbet needs to tell her story. This television series allows her to tell this story which has been overlooked far too long. It begins with her sitting for a miniature portrait telling in a series of flashbacks what happened. It also allows for the folklore to have some artistic license. While she raised the Sedgwick children as their substitute mother in Stockbridge since Theodore's wife Pamela was sickly, she could have accompanied the children to Washington when Sedgwick served there and met notable Americans in Washington such as Washington, Hamilton, Jay, and Knox creating some episodes in that setting allowing for some of her wit and charm to influence others. Sedgwick also spent time in Boston which allows some trips for Mumbet with the children as they grow for episodes in that historic setting. And of course, episodes in Mumbet's life could be set in Stockbridge in the Sedgwick home with many flashbacks of her life as a slave in the Ashley home. Catharine would be listening to the accounts of Mumbet's past as well as an integral part of the television series. The cast are as follows, all of whom are historical persons:




Elizabeth 'Mumbet' Freeman (1744 - 1829), the central figure in the television series


Brom - black male, Mumbet's common law husband, this character allows for some artistic license since not much is known about him


Little Bet - black female, Mumbet's daughter, this character allows for some artistic license since not much is known about her.


Lizzy - black female, Mumbet's younger sister, this character allows for some artistic license since only a little is known about her. After Mumbet left the Ashley home to serve freely in the Sedgwick home, Lizzy remained at the Ashley home and would not accompany her sister which may create possible episodes involving this character


Theodore Sedgwick (1746 - 1813) Member of Massachusetts state legislature; Delegate to Continental Congress from Massachusetts; U.S. Representative from Massachusetts 1789-96, 1799-1801; Speaker of the U.S. House, 1799-1801; U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, 1796-99; state supreme court judge, wealthy property owner. His portrait is painted by Gilbert Stuart and hangs in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. He attended Yale, was admitted to the Massachusett's bar at the age of nineteen. Sedgwick was one of the lawyers who won Mumbet's freedom in 1781 in Great Barrington at the age of 35. After the trial, Mumbet served in the Sedgwick household after leaving the Ashley House and became a central figure in the home. Sedgwick's children named 'Mumbet,' who became their substitute mother. This character is a central figure in the series.


Catharine Sedgwick (1789 - 1867) daughter of Theodore Sedgwick, a prolific writer who is the principle source of information about Mumbet historically. She wrote numerous novels and stories. This character is a principle figure in the series.


Tapping Reeve - the other lawyer to assist Theodore Sedgwick in winning Mumbet's freedom. He formed the first law school in America in Litchfield, Connecticut and made his mark as the foremost legal scholar in the nation


Pamela Sedgwick (1753 -1807) first wife of Theodore, described as, 'suffering from extreme loneliness and depression and melancholy' Mumbet is described by Pamela's daughter as the only person who could calm her mother down when she became 'disordered'


Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. (1780 - 1839) eldest son of Theodore


Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick (1788 -1867) wife of Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. who painted Mumbet's miniature portrait in 1811


Elizabeth Sedgwick (1775 - 1825) eldest daughter of Theodore


Frances Sedgwick (1778 - 1842) child of Theodore


Robert Sedgwick (1787 - 1841) child of Theodore


Charles Sedgwick (1791 - 1856) youngest son of Theodore Sedgwick who wrote Mumbet's epitaph on her grave


Colonel John Ashley (1709 - 1802) a wealthy property owner who owned extensive lands, part of an iron ore mine that supplied iron for the Revolutionary Army, owned a general store, became a lawyer and judge, graduated from Yale, admitted to the Hampshire County Bar in 1732, served in the Massachusetts Militia during the French and Indian War when he was promoted to colonel. This character is rich with history and an essential character in the television series. He was Mumbet's owner when she was set free as a slave, so would be in many flashback episodes.


Hanna (Annatie) Ashley (1712 - 1790) wife of Colonel Ashley according to folklore is the one instrumental in Mumbet's desire to be set free from the Ashley household and is an essential character in the flashback episodes with her husband.


Secondary Characters:


Pieter Hoogeboom (b. ? - d. 1758), father of Hannah Ashley, a wealthy property owner from Claverack, New York who first acquired Mumbet which allows for a flashback to Mumbet's birth with a story for an episode


Maj Gen. John Ashley (1738 - 1799) eldest son of Colonel Ashley


Mary Ashley (b. 1740 - d.?) daughter of Colonel Ashley


Hannah Ashley (b. 1744 - d. ?) daughter of Colonel Ashley


David Noble, a lawyer who defended Colonel Ashley in Mumbet's plea of replevin in the court case winning her freedom who became a trustee of Williams College


Jonathan Canfield, another lawyer who defended Colonel Ashley in Mumbet's plea of replevin in the court case winning her freedom


John - black male slave of Colonel Ashley


Zack Mullen- black male slave of Colonel Ashley, who also brought a suit against Colonel Ashley in October, 1781, the same year that Mumbet gained her freedom. This will allow for a flashback since Mumbet new this man and worked with him. His trial kept getting postponed and there is speculation what happened to him.


Harry - black male slave of Colonel Ashley


Ethan Allen, friend of Theodore Sedgwick and Col. John Ashley and was a partner in Ashley's iron ore mine


George Washington, friend of Theodore Sedgwick


John Adams (1735 - 1826) friend of Theodore Sedgwick


John Jay, friend of Theodore Sedgwick


Alexander Hamilton, friend of Theodore Sedgwick


Henry Knox, friend of Theodore Sedgwick


Thomas Jefferson, friend of Theodore Sedgwick


Many other characters may be introduced into the series, the possibilities are substantial since history supplies many names...


The music for the series should be written by someone who can appreciate Mumbet's heroic qualities and should be entitled: Mumbet's Theme


The series can cover the life of Mumbet from her birth till her death with a lot of artistic license to give her the folk hero status she deserves.


For more information on Mumbet: