Elizabeth Freeman statue to be unveiled
Sculptor Brian Hanlon’s original clay rendering of a statue of Elizabeth Freeman. The statue is due to be unveiled on Sunday August 21 at noon in Sheffield Green. Photo sent by Jennifer Owens, Trustee of the Sheffield Historical Society.
Sheffield— After more than a year of planning, a bronze statue dedicated to Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman will be unveiled. Prior to the unveiling, a series of events organized by the city’s Historical Society will take place on Friday, August 19; Saturday August 20; and Sunday August 21.
Freeman was born in Claverack-Red Mills, New York around 1744, and died in Stockbridge in 1829.
The statue was installed on the town’s Village Green and honors Freeman, a slave who sued for and won her freedom in 1781. Freeman won her case more than 80 years before the proclamation of emancipation became law in January 1863.
The plan to build the eight-foot-tall statue was announced last November by the Historical Society, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), the First Congregational Church of Sheffield and the Berkshire Taconic Foundation.
“Freeman is a remarkable historical figure and a true pioneer,” said Jennifer Owens, Trustee of the Historical Society. “Over the years, the Historical Society has been involved in a celebration of his case. More than a year ago, several people came to us with the idea of erecting a statue of her. Freeman had a big impact on the future of anyone of African descent in the state of Massachusetts. We want the world to know about her, and we think this is a great way to draw attention to her for anyone coming to Sheffield.
When asked, Owens would not discuss the financial costs of creating and erecting the statue. Various sources, however, reported that approximately $200,000 had been raised for the project, with the statue created by New Jersey-based sculptor Brian Hanlon.
Owens said some of the money raised for the project will go to an annual scholarship fund in Freeman’s name that will start in the near future.
According to the Historical Society’s website, the event is a collaboration between Sheffield’s First Congregational Church, the Historical Society and state representative Pignatelli.
The first event of the weekend celebrations is a panel discussion titled “Elizabeth Freeman and The Telling of Black Stories” at Dewey Hall on Friday, August 19 at 4 p.m.
The roundtable will bring together historians Dr. Kerri Greenidge, Dr. Sari Edelstein, Dr. Kendra T. Field and Dr. Frances Jones Sneed.
The panel will discuss Freeman’s life and, as described in the event’s press release, “will use [Freeman’s] story as a doorway into a larger conversation about the histories, silences, and ethics of African-American public history.
On Saturday, August 20 at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Sheffield, “Meet Elizabeth Freeman” will be performed by Wanda Houston. The play is written by Philadelphia-based playwright Teresa Miller.
On Sunday, August 21 at 9:30 a.m., the 12th Annual Freedom Walk will take place at the Ashley House. The walk will lead to Sheffield Green, where Freeman’s solicitor Theodore Sedwick had an office. The event commemorates Freeman’s “march to freedom” by engaging Sedwick to represent her.
The statue unveiling ceremony will take place just after the midday walk in Sheffield Green near the Old Stone Store.
“The statue is created with historical symbolism in mind,” Owens said. “She will face in front of the Stone Store, which is one of the properties of the Historical Society. However, the statue is on the property of the former parish church she attended. She looks across the street to her lawyer’s office.
Various speakers will take part in the unveiling ceremony of the statue, including former Governor Deval Patrick.
For more information on Historical Society programs and events surrounding the unveiling of the Elizabeth Freeman statue, please visit company website.