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Mumbet's Declaration of Independence

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  202 ratings  ·  55 reviews
All men are born free and equal.

Everybody knows about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But the founders weren't the only ones who believed that everyone had a right to freedom. Mumbet, a Massachusetts slave, believed it too. She longed to be free, but how? Would anyone help her in her fight for freedom? Could she win against her owner, t
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published February 1st 2014 by Carolrhoda Books (R) (first published January 1st 2014)
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Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Loved the story, not so much the illustrations. I’d heard of Mumbet before, but this book told me a lot more about her. How clever of her to use the law to win her freedom from her master. What I didn’t know was that her lawyer’s daughter was the author Catharine Maria Sedgwick, from whose writings we know about Mumbet. The story ends with Mumbet gaining her freedom, so Woelfle includes additional information about Mumbet in an author’s note at the end of the book. She also includes a reproducti ...more
Amy Alvis
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The pictures are beautiful and so vivid in color. I love that the book covers parts of the American Revolution that is not normally talked about. I had no idea that there were slaves that petitioned for their freedom after hearing about the Massachusetts Constitution. Even though this book does not use primary source documents, it is a fictional story based on a real person. I think my students will connect with it more than what we read in our textbooks. I will definitely be getting a copy of t ...more
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I loved this story about a slave trying to get independence because of the constitution. I thought it was a great story. I did not enjoy the artwork too much I thought it made the faces look a little scary but the story was powerful.
Carol Baldwin
This excellent picture book shows a little known side of the American Revolution. The text is gripping and the illustrations are amazing.
Owned by the most powerful man in Berkshire County, Massasschusetts, Colonel John Ashley, Mumbet overheard men at the Ashley house talking about freedom and equality. She secretly attended a town meeting where the Massachusetts Constitution was discussed. Then, she went to see the lawyer, Theodore Sedgwick, who was at the Ashley house. She states that based on the new constitution, she is free and equal. Unsure at first, Mr. Sedgwick took her case to court and won. “... and for the rest of her l ...more
Katheryn McNicholas
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence
Gretchen Woelfle

I deeply appreciate when a book lends voice to those who do not have one, whose stories have not been told. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence is a beautifully illustrated, succinct, and accessible telling of a true story from U.S history. It empowers and questions its reader regardless of their age. This book tells the true story of an enslaved woman whose owner is involved with the drafting of America’s Declaration of Independence. It highl
DelAnne Frazee
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Title: Mumbet's Declaration Of Independence
Author: Gretchen Woelfle
Illustrator: Alix Delinois
Publisher: Lemer Publishing Group
Published: 2-1-2014
ISBN-10: 0761365893
ISBN-13: 978-0761365891
Pages: 32
Genre: Children's Fiction,
Tags: Historical Fiction, Colonial, African America
Overall Rating: Very Good

Mumbet was a slave and as such was owned by Colonel Ashley of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, she did not even have a proper name. Mrs. Ashley treated her badly. Always calling
Ben Truong
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mumbet's Declaration of Independence is a children's picture book written by Gretchen Woelfle and illustrated by Alix Delinois. It is a cursory biography of Elizabeth Freeman, who was the first enslaved African American to file and win her freedom suit in Massachusetts.

February, at least in my part of the world is Black History Month, which I plan to read one children's book, particularly a biography, which pertains to the subject everyday this month. Therefore, I thought that this book would be
Nov 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-kid-lit, netgalley
Gretchen Woelfle has written an account of Mumbet's desire for freedom and her legal battle to achieve it. Since there are no historical records left by Mumbet (a.k.a. Elizabeth Freeman) herself, the author has taken information recorded by the daughter of Mumbet's lawyer and used it to imagine what Mumbet was feeling and thinking. It is interesting to note that tours of her owner's house focused on his accomplishments and role in history, but recently Mumbet's story has come to the forefront. I ...more
Jason Smith
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ed230-books
Mumbet is a slave in colonial times who is fighting for her freedom. She works for a cruel mistress but her master is a man who wants to fight for his freedom from England. If he has a right to freedom under the new constitution why doesn’t she? I liked this book a lot since I am big into stories about people who actually lived. The endpages contain some facts about the real person and a small bit of her history as recorded by her lawyers child since no other accounts exist for a former slave. T ...more
Sarah Jarvis
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I want to be sure my classroom and my knowledge base contain many, many stories of courage and triumph, especially if the lead character has suffered from an unjust society. This story takes us through the like of "Just Bett" call Mumbet affectionately by the children she cared for, because as a northern slave she had no last name. I think we see much more literature on southern slaves, so ensuring that our students know there was slavery in the north is important. Mumbet was owned by a man who ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Holly Mueller
I didn't know Mumbet's story before this book. What a courageous woman! When she was ordered by her cruel mistress to serve the men in the study food and drink, she overheard them talking about the injustice of Britain's taxes and laws imposed upon Americans. When she heard Colonel Ashley, her owner, say, "Mankind in a state of Nature are equal, free, and independent...," it made her think, "Wasn't she part of mankind?" After that, she approached the young lawyer present at the meeting and asked ...more
Darcie Caswell
tells the story of Mumbet, an enslaved woman in colonial Massachusetts. As colonists begin to talk openly about freedom from Britain, Mumbet wonders if those freedoms apply to her. When a new state constitution is ratified, declaring that all people are born free and equal, Mumbet is inspired to sue her owner in court, demanding her freedom and challenging the legality of slavery. This is the first time Mumbet’s story has been told in a picture book biography, and Woelfle presents an important p ...more
Dec 09, 2013 rated it liked it
“All men are born free and equal...” When Mumbet heard these opening words of the new Massachusetts Constitution she wondered if they applied to her. After 30 years of slavery under a cruel master she desperately wanted to find out, so she took the brave step to seek out a lawyer and attempt to secure her freedom in court. Mumbet won; she and her daughter were free. Mumbet’s courageous actions are depicted in bold paintings and told in an engaging narrative. An author’s note gives more informati ...more
Mumbet was a slave who served the Ashley family in the time before the American Revolution. Freedom was her greatest wish and she fought for it, in court. When she heard the lines of the Constitution proclaiming all people free she challenged her master in court and won!

An author's note follows the story and reveals what became of Mumbet after her victory. Also included is a selected bibliography and a further reading list.

The text itself gives readers an understanding of what it felt like to be
This is a picture book about Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman, a real slave who lived during the American Revolution. Inspired by the Massachusetts Constitution, Mumbet worked with lawyer Theodore Sedgwick to challenge slavery and eventually win her freedom as well as the freedom of 5,000 slaves in the state. We really enjoyed this read aloud, and particularly enjoyed finding out in the author's note that Mumbet's master's house is still toured today. Originally the tour focused on Colonel John Ashley ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy Porter
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kidlit
This was a great book with a great message. Fight for what you believe in! Mrs. Mumbet longed for freedom and she took action and got it. Great introduction book for young children when talking about slavery and independence. This is an important topic in our country and this book shows us a little about the life of a slave and how they were treated. Its important for people to know the cruelty they received. Its important for children to understand that we are all equal no matter the color of o ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read many picture books to see if they should be added to my middle school collection or used as a method for introducing a topic.

This book discusses slavery from pre American Revolution to post American Revolution. In focuses on one female slave and how she obtained her freedom shortly after, and due to, the American Revolution procuring it's "freedom".

This would be great for 8th grade to begin the American Revolution unit... and then to review as they approach The Civil War.

*** The Author's
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Interesting picture book about Mumbet, a woman who was a slave in Revolutionary times. When she overhears men writing the Massachusetts constitution and talking about rebelling against Britain, she goes to a lawyer and demands that it applies to her too. She has a trial and wins her freedom! Changes her name to "Elizabeth Freeman." Though sources are given, there's not a whole lot known about the details of her life; the book has fictionalized dialogue and an author's note that clarifies what is ...more
I had never heard of Mumbet before reading this book, and it has peaked my interest to learn more about her story. I have always wondered a bit about how slaves felt when hearing the Constitution state "all men are created equal", although most slaves were uneducated and kept unaware. But here is one brave young lady who heard those words and believed in them, and found a way to make them ring true for her - and ultimately, all slaves in her state.
Kayla Spires
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A colorful book done in fairly realistic acrylic paint that tells the true story of a woman named Mumbet fighting for her freedom. The aspirational emotion with the struggles faced appeal to the senses of a child and could be easily relatable while also showing the perspective of the time period and sharing about Slavery. The authors note also provides true facts which could be good for pre-teaching a classroom
Rob Thelen
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent nonfiction resource to use during Black History Month, or during a Revolutionary War Unit. The story is about a black slave named, Mumbet who dreams of being free, and one day becomes just that. This book would serve as an excellent launching point for many units, and can lead into some deep discussions with various age levels of students.
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well-written true story of Mumbet, the slave from Massachusetts who demanded that her freedom was constitutional. She got a lawyer, Mr. Sedgwick (Kyra Sedgwick's ancestor) who fought for her freedom in court in 1781. Two years later, all slaves in Massachusetts had gained their freedom. This is a hopeful story about a brave woman who is often overlooked in history.
Marguarite Markley
An interesting account of Elizabeth Freeman's decision to sue her owner for her freedom. What makes this particular story stand out is that it takes place prior to the Civil War. Her decision to declare her freedom from Colonel Ashley came after overhearing Ashley and his colleagues discussing declaring their freedom from the British. A unique offering.
Lin Lin
As a slave, Mumbet challenged Colonel John Ashley, the most powerful and richest man in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to seek her freedom. A young lawyer, Mr. Theodore Sedgwick, went to the court to defend her by quoting the newly passed Massachusetts' Constitution in 1781 that slavery was illegal. Mumbet won her freedom and lived her life as a free person, now known as Elizabeth Freeman.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a true story of a slave woman that fought for her freedom in a very clever way. With next to no education Mumbet was able to use her the power of reason and persuasion to prove to enough people that she had the legal right to be free, just as the newly independent former colonists were after declaring their independence from England. A moving story that all people should know.
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: black history, strong females and women history requests
Recommended to June by:
During the American Revolution, Mumbet wonders what all the talk of freedom means for her as a slave. She approaches the young lawyer that wrote the Massachusetts Constitution demanding her freedom.

Wonderful programming possibilities for Black History month and Women's History month.
Michelle Gray
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-biography
This would make a great read aloud in an elementary class to give the chance to learn about African Americans during slavery. It is a great introduction to someone they are probably very unfamiliar with. Beautiful illustrations.
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