Elizabeth Freeman was born into slavery in Western Massachusetts, and died in 1829 at the approximate age of 90. She obtained her freedom in 1781 after a jury trial, where she was represented by Theodore Sedgwick, a young lawyer from a wealthy family. (Kyra Sedgwick, the actress, is one of their descendants.) Freeman then worked for the Sedgwick family for many years.
Theodore owned five slaves. He supported antislavery legislation in Boston, and joined the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society in 1792 (members were not required to give up their slaves). He also supported the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act, perhaps as a political accommodation or to discourage escaped slaves from relocating to Massachusetts.
Elizabeth was buried in the Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge Cemetery, and a headstone was placed at her grave, an uncommon honor for blacks. Catharine Maria Sedgwick, a well-known writer, had a strong attachment to Elizabeth, and reserved her own grave next to Elizabeth’s.
The authors were not able to find a living descendant of Elizabeth Freeman, and some of the later chapters which describe their search are rambling and tedious. Otherwise, a good read.
My mother was born on May 15, 1938. She would have been 75 this year, but she didn’t make it. She said she had a good life, but she was tired. I’ve learned that when older people say they are tired, you should pay attention. It’s not like a good night’s sleep will solve their problems.
This picture was taken in 2009. Mom’s friends, Linda (seated), Art and Fletch, liked to play cards and eat Linda’s food. Linda Wargo is also a painter, and that’s one of her paintings in the background, on the wall of her dining room.
It’s been a difficult week for the family, and we are all hoping to move on. I sent my deposit copies to the Library of Congress yesterday. I’m glad my mother was able to review one of my early drafts. Even better, she liked it.
The “B.” in my mother’s name stands for “Bruncha,” the Polish name for “Bertha.” She was named for her grandmother, who emigrated from Poland and settled in New Jersey. My mother was born in Teaneck in 1938. She left her home state when she was eight years old, but never completely lost her accent, or her attitude.
This picture was published today at The Huffington Post, in honor of Lei Day (celebrated May 1st in the State of Hawaii). It’s nice to have a picture published, but not for a sad reason. This picture was taken at West Hawaii Veteran’s Cemetery on November 9, 2012, the last day of my trip. Aloha to the State of Hawaii, and goodbye to Bruncha. We miss you still.
Wole Soyinka has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the 78th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. Among many other efforts, Soyinka wrote the Forward to “The Legacy,” a book about James Baldwin compiled after his death. Soyinka met Baldwin several times, and admired his tenacious devotion to written expression, “a near-evangelical commitment to the principle that rules all being – love sought, denied, distorted, waiting in the wings or hovering on the wing, a veritable deus ex machina, lacking only a landing permit from a blinkered humanity that hesitates at the door of salvation.” As one of Baldwin’s self-attached students, I think he would appreciate Soyinka’s comments, and the award. Congratulations!
Soyinka has had a wide range of experience, including exile from Nigeria, his nation of birth. “Of Africa” presents a good opportunity to contemplate the problems of the First Continent, now widely regarded as part of the Third World. Soyinka’s analysis of the Sudan is impressive, describing the delusions of superiority held by slaveowners, which they use to justify preying on slaves. His lengthy discourse on religious tolerance is marred by his obvious irritation with a woman he observed eating at a restaurant in an extreme form of religious dress. Orisa may be a good alternative to Islam or Christianity, more tolerant and pan-humanist. Mwari, an African god, is commonly portrayed with one eye open and the other half-shut, signifying his acceptance of human imperfection. We might all benefit from such an outlook.