J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Mum Bett Presentations at Royall House, 31 May

On Saturday, 31 May, the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford will host two performances of “One Minute’s Freedom: The Story of Mum Bett” by storyteller Tammy Denease.

This presentation introduces children aged seven and up to Elizabeth Freeman, a woman who helped end slavery in Massachusetts by suing for her freedom in 1781. Her lawyer was Theodore Sedgewick (1746-1813), and she worked for him after becoming free. In 1853 Bentley’s Miscellany published an essay by his daughter Catherine Sedgewick which described Freeman this way:
Mum-Bett’s character was composed of few but strong elements. Action was the law of her nature, and conscious of superiority to all around her, she felt servitude intolerable. It was not the work—work was play to her. Her power of execution was marvellous. Nor was it awe of her kind master, or fear of her despotic mistress, but it was the galling of the harness, the irresistible longing for liberty. I have heard her say, with an emphatic shake of the head peculiar to her: “Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to 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 airth a free woman—I would.”

It was soon after the close of the revolutionary war, that she chanced at the village “meeting house,” in Sheffield, to hear the Declaration of Independence read. She went the next day to the office of Mr. Theodore Sedgewick, then in the beginning of his honourable political and legal career. “Sir,” said she, “I heard that paper read yesterday, that says, ‘all men are born equal,[’] and that every man has a right to freedom. I am not a dumb critter; won’t the law give me my freedom?” I can imagine her upright form, as she stood dilating with her fresh hope based on the declaration of an intrinsic, inalienable right. Such a resolve as hers is like God’s messengers—wind, snow, and hail— irresistible.
This program about Freeman is supported by Historic New England and the Medford Arts Council. The performances will start at 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. and last about 45 minutes. The mansion and slave quarters will be open to visitors in between. Admission is free, but registration is required; email Programs@RoyallHouse.org for tickets.

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

I understand that as of now the 11:00 A.M. presentation is all booked up, but there are still spaces for the 3:00 P.M. show.