Mum Bett was the first African American woman to successfully file a lawsuit for freedom in the state of Massachusetts. Born a slave, she was owned by Colonel John Ashley who served as a judge that moderated the committee that wrote the Sheffield Declaration of 1773, which stated that mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of the lives, their liberty and property. Bett approached attorney Theodore Sedgwick who filed a “writ of replevin” ordering the release of Mum Bett and another slave, Brom. Ashley refused and the case was decided in the Court of Common Pleas, where a jury found they were not Ashley’s legitimate property. After her release, Mum Bett changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman and became a paid domestic earning enough money to buy her own home. Freeman also worked as a healer, midwife, and nurse.
In 1619, slavery was established as a legal institution in all thirteen colonies. After the Revolution, slavery became a state institution. It was tolerated, but not sanctioned by the U.S. Constitution. Ten of the first twelve U.S. Presidents owned slaves. The process of abolishing slavery was achieved on a state-by-state basis. In 1780, Pennsylvania banned slavery by a statute that all slaves born after it passed would be freed on reaching the age of majority. In 1783, Massachusetts became the first state to abolish slavery outright. By 1804, it was banned or gradually abolished, in all the Northern states. Nationally the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery throughout the United States.
This Elizabeth Freeman/Mum Bett History Mug is part of our biographical series which includes many unique individuals who played an important part in molding our U.S. history.
The biographical History Mugs were created to teach and inspire individuals to learn about our diverse and interesting history. The biographies were researched and written by history enthusiast, Robert Compton. He colorized most of the historic photos and images used on the mugs, which were originally black and white or sepia tone. The images and biographies are imprinted on mugs at his studio in rural Vermont.
- Mugs are food and microwave safe.
- To preserve photographic quality we recommend hand washing.
- Mugs are usually shipped within 3-5 days.
- Shipping charges are lower when buying multiple mugs.