Mumbet Essay - Critical Essays

Harold W. Felton


In this biography, students learn that the battle for civil rights began long ago and that it began with litigation rather than with violence. The author shows that Freeman was not mistreated, that she lived a good life, and that she was happy working hard. Nevertheless, John Ashley considered her a servant for life, and she did not have the right to quit the job if she disagreed with the master or mistress. It is important that young readers understand that Freeman took her actions because of the depth with which she loved freedom, in spite of the fact that she lived better than many white people.

Felton emphasizes the importance of the atmosphere of freedom and equality in Massachusetts, the state that was the setting for the Boston Tea Party, as well as the events of Concord and Lexington. He shows the contradiction created by John Ashley, who was overjoyed with the new constitution of Massachusetts because it was a noble document and who believed that his state had always led the way to independence and to freedom. Yet he did not include slaves in that group deserving freedom and equality. Mr. Sedgwick presents a contrast to Ashley as well, because he was active in the cause of freedom for slaves. He wondered about the effect of the new constitution on slavery from its inception.

Freeman is another contrast to Ashley, as she knew about the Declaration of Independence that was adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. She heard Ashley read it aloud in the Ashley home, and her husband died for it. She heard the words “free and equal” and “We hold...

(The entire section is 658 words.)