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Statue planned in Berkshires for 18th-century woman who sued for and won her freedom from slavery

A photo of a portrait in a gold frame of Elizabeth Freeman
New England Public Media
A miniature portrait of Elizabeth Freeman from 1811.

A statue is planned for the Berkshires depicting an 18th-century Black woman who was once enslaved and who sued for her freedom and won.

This story was first published by New England Public Media.

Bett, later known as Mumbet and even later as Elizabeth Freeman, was enslaved in Sheffield, Massachusetts, in the mid-1700s.

The woman who enslaved Freeman hit her with a shovel from the fireplace. So Mumbet walked to the house of lawyer Theodore Sedgwick, whom she had previously overheard discussing equality, and asked for a lawsuit for her freedom.

She won the case.

State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli said Mumbet was a game-changer and that a statue is long overdue.

"Before Rosa Parks and before Sojourner Truth, there was Mumbet," Pignatelli said. "We need to celebrate her."

Pignatelli said the statue will be unveiled in Sheffield in August, but first he said at least $200,000 must be raised to pay for it.

Pignatelli also wants to establish a college scholarship named after Freeman.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a freelance reporter at New England Public Radio.
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