Most people are aware of the enslavement of African Americans in the Southern states but don’t realize that there was slavery in the North, too, albeit not as prevalent as in the South. It was in the North that people became more aware of the immorality of slavery and began work abolishing it. Unfortunately, it took a civil war to accomplish.
A slave named Elizabeth Freeman lived in the North in late 18th and early 19th-century Massachusetts. Better known as Mum Bett as a slave and after she gaining her freedom, she was a good nurse whose mistress was a cruel person when she went into rages, often beating Mum Bett and her sister. Massachusetts law forbad beating and cruelty against slaves, and eventually Mum Bett was able to take her master to court. Her owners were prominent members of Massachusetts society, so she needed another prominent person to help her. She found it in Theodore Sedgwick, a lawyer and up-and-coming Massachusetts politician. Together they won her freedom, and she worked for the rest of her life helping to care for Sedgwick’s family, as well as marrying and having her own family.
Ben Z. Rose’s research has yielded an interesting and revealing biography of an African American slave in Massachusetts. The front cover features an image of the Ashley house in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where Mum Bett lived in slavery, and the book contains endnotes, a bibliography, and an index. This short and very readable book is highly recommended to those interested in slavery, African American biography, and early American history.
Rose is also the author of John Stark: Maverick General (2007), which was selected by ForeWord Magazine as a Book of the Year finalist in the category of biography. Rose also writes for the Union Leader, The Concord Monitor and The Boston Globe.