In 1780, the proclamation “all men are born free and equal,” rang out from the central square in the small town of Sheffield Massachusetts. But one woman who heard it wasn’t inspired, she was enraged. Elizabeth Freeman, known as “ Mum Bett,” was an enslaved woman who understood the hypocrisy in the declaration. Freeman went to the house of Theodore Sedgwick, a prominent local lawyer, and demanded a dramatic accounting for the hypocrisy: she wanted to sue the state of Massachusetts for her freedom.
“I heard that paper read yesterday, that says all men are born equal and that every man has a right to freedom,” she said, “I am not a dumb critter; won’t the law give me my freedom?”
Surprisingly, Sedgwick agreed to represent her. Her trial the following year became what has been called “the trial of the century,” rocking not only Massachusetts but the entire institution of slavery.Freeman’s case was remarkable. She wasn’t only saying that her enslavement was unjust, she was saying that all enslavement was unjust. A jury of twelve local farmers, all men and all white ruled in favor of Freeman in 1781, giving her freedom and awarding her 30 shillings in damages.
• Made of 100% combed and ringspun cotton
• Pre-shrunk fabric
• Unisex fit
• Side seams
• Shoulder-to-shoulder taping
• Machine wash delicate cycle