This essay centers on the figure of Elizabeth Freeman, who was enslaved in Massachusetts in the late eighteenth-century and successfully sued the state for manumission, thus establishing a legal precedent for the abolition of slavery in the Commonwealth. This essay considers Freeman's biography, first, as it was written by her employers (the Sedgwicks) in the early nineteenth century; then, as it circulates in literature for young readers today; and finally, in relation to questions about the recovery and repurposing of early American black lives. It seeks to make visible what we do not know about Freeman while also examining the ideological consequences of the narratives that have been told about her long life.

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