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In 1781, Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman became the first African-American slave to win her freedom through a court of law. The case was held in Massachusetts, which, coincidentally became the first state in the Union to abolish slavery. Many attribute the decision to the Freeman case and two others in the state. 
 
http://www.blackamericaweb.com/?q=articles/news/the_black_diaspora_news/22826

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