Mumbet Critical Context - Essay

Harold W. Felton

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Felton wrote this and several other biographies of important but lesser-known African-American heroes, such as Jim Beckwourth and Edward Rose, that are widely used in schools. Mumbet is particularly appealing because it can be read quickly and its lively style holds the young reader’s interest. Such biographies help students learn about the African American’s long search for freedom and civil rights. These books also lead readers to understand that people seek different avenues to freedom and that not all heroes are famous. This book would make an interesting comparison with a biography of Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

Felton presents Freeman as an individual whom readers would like and admire. His portrayal is intended to acquaint his audience with little-known heroes such as Freeman who are important to American history and African-American studies. Felton used a vigorous writing style in Mumbet, and the sources quoted in the lengthy introduction make evident his extensive research for this biography. By quoting Mark Hopkins, an educator, and Harriet Martineau, an English novelist and political economist, Felton shows that this humble woman was widely known and respected. He carefully balanced these facts with the fiction of skillfully created conversations and details that portray Freeman as a person who was well loved by those who knew her.