Jana Laiz

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Mumbet cover

A Jewish girl, I grew up in White Plains, NY, in a very multiracial neighborhood. I had many African American friends and classmates. My parents encouraged all of my friendships, and for that I will always be very grateful. Our house was full of life and culture, which included Colombians, Japanese, Scots, Koreans, Germans, Vietnamese and African Americans to name a few. In 4th grade (1969) I had the only (perhaps the first) African American teacher in our elementary school; Miss Harris. She introduced us to many inspiring African American heroes including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks and Langston Hughes, all of whom influenced me tremendously. Miss Harris inspired me too, so much so, that I became a teacher and later, a writer. After moving to the Berkshires, Massachusetts, I became intrigued with the story of a local enslaved African woman called Mumbet, who, in 1781, sued for her freedom based on the newly ratified Massachusetts Constitution and the premise that “All men are created equal.” I was so inspired by her story, that I co-authored a juvenile biography about her entitled, “A Free Woman On God’s Earth” The True Story of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman. My co-author, Ann-Elizabeth Barnes and I feel truly blessed to have written this work. We hope it will inspire and educate children and adults alike. As a writer, I like to think that books are the most effective way to pass along this rich and growing history to future generations. And television programs like this one.

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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.