Elizabeth Freeman

Description

This miniature watercolor (3.5 cm x 5.5 cm) shows the face and upper torso of Elizabeth Freeman (c.1744-1829), also known as Bet or Mama Bet. It remains unclear if Freemen was African, or born in New York state of African parents. She was purchased when young and became a servant in a Massachusetts household. After an incident of maltreatment, she left her owner and enlisted the aid of a Massachusetts antislavery lawyer, Thomas Sedgwick. She was the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit in Massachusetts in 1781. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling, in Freeman's favor, found slavery to be inconsistent with the 1780 Massachusetts State Constitution. She died in 1829 and was buried in a segregated section of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts graveyard. Her portrait was painted by Susan Sedgwick, Thomas's daughter. For biographical details on Freeman's life, see Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel (New York, 1838), vol. 2, pp. 104-10.

Source

Miniature portrait held in the Massachusetts Historical Society

Date Created

1811

Language

English

Rights

Metadata is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International; Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Identifier

I021

Spatial Coverage

North America--Massachusetts

Citation

"Elizabeth Freeman", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed February 23, 2020, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2690
This miniature watercolor (3.5 cm x 5.5 cm) shows the face and upper torso of Elizabeth Freeman (c.1744-1829), also known as Bet or Mama Bet. It remains unclear if Freemen was African, or born in New York state of African parents. She was purchased when young and became a servant in a Massachusetts household. After an incident of maltreatment, she left her owner and enlisted the aid of a Massachusetts antislavery lawyer, Thomas Sedgwick. She was the first enslaved African American to file and win a freedom suit in Massachusetts in 1781. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling, in Freeman's favor, found slavery to be inconsistent with the 1780 Massachusetts State Constitution. She died in 1829 and was buried in a segregated section of the Stockbridge, Massachusetts graveyard. Her portrait was painted by Susan Sedgwick, Thomas's daughter. For biographical details on Freeman's life, see Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel (New York, 1838), vol. 2, pp. 104-10.
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