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Mary Ellen Pleasant (20356 hits)

Mary Ellen Pleasant, referred to as the "mother of civil rights" in 1860s California, is a figure that isn't well-known in modern Black history, but was a famous abolitionist, entrepreneur, and social figure who saved countless lives helping slaves escape to freedom. It was actually Pleasant who financed John Brown's famous slave rebellion at Harper's Ferry, an act that cost Brown his life while Pleasant narrowly escaped.

Mary was born into slavery in Georgia around 1814, and grew up as an indentured servant to merchants in New Orleans and Massachusetts. Her master, despite earlier promises of freedom, instead sold her into slavery. She grew into a woman and married in Boston; her northern owners were sympathetic to the abolitionist cause and she was thus able to eventually earn her freedom.

She became an infamous figure of the "Underground Railroad", secreting enslaved Blacks to freedom in disguise. Pleasant fled west to San Francisco to escape slave hunters, eventually gaining the trust and respect of San Francisco's elite. She was well known for her uncanny ability to broker relationships and gain financial and social support for Blacks, and the abolitionist cause.

In California, she gained significant wealth and power, allowing her to provision John Brown's rebellion with weapons, supplies, and parcels of land in which to hide. She was known to be a very successful entrepreneur, starting several successful businesses whose estimated value was $30 million in today's currency.

Her most famous achievement was a successful challenge to San Francisco's segregated trolley system in 1868; 90 years prior to the bus boycotts of Montgomery and Selma, AL. The judgment set a legal precedent which still stands today, and was upheld in a California court in 1983. Sadly, Pleasant's reputation was tarnished by her political enemies, and her many achievements were lost to history.
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Monday, February 11th 2008 at 2:12PM
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Wow! Now that was cool and very inspiring. :)
Tuesday, February 26th 2008 at 2:55PM
Re: Ms. Pleasant
Hi, I'm the new kid on the block, Junior at DSU-Dover - Mass Comm Major. Thanks for the update on Mary Pleasant. Look forward to more.
Saturday, March 1st 2008 at 7:56AM
Re: Ms Pleasant. Hi, I'm Katherine. I teach at a Community College. I'm doing a celebration on Black History. I will Showcase Ms Pleasant's accomplishments. Thx.
Tuesday, February 17th 2009 at 10:20AM
I was directed to this site by a fellow LinkedIn member (LinkedIn.com). I love BIOs. Especially BIOs that reflect this proverb: "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small."
Monday, January 24th 2011 at 2:12PM
Treathyl FOX
i was impressed with the article about Mary Ellen Pleasant. We need to know more about the true fact concerning Black History and then pass the information on to young boys and girls in our homes, communities, and classrooms. The students need to know more about historians other than Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. They were pioneers, but there were certainly others before them. I try and teach Black History throughout the year .
Thursday, January 27th 2011 at 10:09AM
I just had to repost this on my facebook. She inspires me
Friday, February 4th 2011 at 11:35AM
A million thanks for that post and this wonderful historically perfect icon, Mary Pleasant. That is the kind of details and detective work we need to gather for "our" history books so it can be taught to our children.
Wednesday, March 2nd 2011 at 7:59AM
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