Freeman, Elizabeth

Freeman, Elizabeth (d. 1792) Free African-American Woman: Freeman was born into slavery, and entered the service of Colonel John Ashley, a leading citizen of Berkshire County. According to the writings of the Sedgewick family, Freeman was inspired by the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Nicknamed "Bett" or "Mumbett," she became one of the plaintiffs in the 1781 case, Brom and Bett v. Ashley, in she and Brom, about whom little is known, successfully sued for their freedom. Some modern historians believe that the case was arranged to test the legality of slavery in Massachusetts. It attracted some of the finest legal minds of the period, with Theodore Sedgewick and Tapping Reeve as attorneys for the plaintiffs. Colonel Ashley did not appeal the decision and, together with the Quok Walker suit of the same period, and the case helped establish the ending phase of slavery in Massachusetts. After she was declared a free woman, Freeman became a servant of the Sedgwick family in western Massachusetts.