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Mum Bett

Mac McGill & Steve Wishnia

Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, was the first slave to win her freedom in court on human rights grounds. She ran away after her owner’s wife hit her with a red-hot shovel. With the aid of an abolitionist lawyer, she argued that she was no one’s property, that slavery violated the State Constitution’s principle that “All men are born free and equal” and have the “unalienable” right to enjoy their liberty—and in 1781, won her freedom. Two years later, a state appeals court followed that reasoning and effectively abolished slavery in Massachusetts.

“Any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered 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’s earth a free woman.”

This CPH edition printed at the worker-owned and union-run Community Printers, Santa Cruz, CA.

This is #140 in the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series.

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