Mother of Freedom: Mumbet and the Roots of Abolition
Mother of Freedom is a quick and informative read that explores the life of the first enslaved African American woman to file, and win, a freedom lawsuit in Massachusetts. Mumbet was a spirited woman who was born into slavery. How can an illiterate slave win her freedom in a court of law?
I definitely don’t recall ever hearing the name Mumbet in history class or what people believed was her true name, Elizabeth Freeman. Even when Black History Month comes around I can’t say that I recall her being mentioned. That might just be because people think of it as more of a footnote in history than some world-altering event, but I think it’s more than a footnote because she was the first woman to successfully sue for her freedom which is a huge accomplishment, especially during the 1700’s, when being a slave was rarely challenged. Mother of Freedom does an exceptional job of piecing together this heartrending account of one woman’s life and trial.
I found Mumbet to be absolutely fascinating. The friendship that forms between her and her white-skinned lawyer was endearing. Their friendship was formed under stress and it’s no wonder they were friends for a lifetime. Mumbet was hired and helped to care for his wife and she also cared for his child. Mumbet didn’t know how to read or write, which I am shocked that the family she cared for didn’t try to teach her (although I am shocked at the entire institution of slavery), but even without those abilities, she was a bold, loyal, brave, and caring. Her story reminds me of Dred Scott’s story. Although Dred lost his case for freedom, Mumbet and her lawyer succeeded.
While I did find the history interesting, the book as a whole didn’t feel complete. That is in no way the fault of the author, there just isn’t very much information on this particular event. I honestly find it odd that more information isn’t written about this fiery woman and her landmark case, or that it isn’t taught about in school. But this is a minor point in an otherwise exceptional story told with a straightforward tone. Author Ben Z. Rose shed’s light on a little known historical figure, and the roots of the abolition movement, that any reader will enjoy.
Pages: 98 | ASIN: B086HR78BJ