Mary Ellen Pleasant: Entrepreneur and The Mother of the Early California Civil Rights Struggle

MaryEllenPleasant                  untitled_3    MeetMaryPleasant_630


Born:a slave on  August 19, 1814 in Georgia

Parents: an enslaved Voodoo Priestess and John Pleasant, a  Virginia Governor’s son

Spouse(s): James Smith (m. 1841 til his death in 1844), a contractor and merchant and John  James “J.J.” Pleasant (m. 1848 til his death in 1877)

Occupation: Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Activist, and Philanthropist

Accomplishments, Achievements, and Contributions: She took her inheritance of $45,000 from her lst husband’s death to help advance civil rights for Blacks. She had amassed a total fortune of $30,000,000! Mary became known as the “Mother” of the Early California Civil Rights Struggle. She worked as an conductor on the underground railroad across the country and help expand it to Cali during the gold rush era. She was a friend and financial supporter to abolitionist John Brown. She helped ex-slaves avoid extradition, start businesses, find employment in hotels, homes and on the steamships and railroads across California. She led the Franchise League Movement in San Francisco which earned Black citizens the right to testify in court and ride the city’s trolleys.

Awards and/or Honors:

Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park, San Francisco, California

Quotes About Or By Mary:


Death: January 4, 1904, San Francisco, California

I salute this AMAZING HER-story making sista!


Wikipedia Bio

Hutchins Center for African American Research


2 thoughts on “Mary Ellen Pleasant: Entrepreneur and The Mother of the Early California Civil Rights Struggle

  1. Yes I’ve heard of her. Here in Cali she is mentioned from time to time. She has a very interesting story. At least she did try to help black people. The video with Lisa Bonet was kind of funny


  2. Those photos of what you believe to be the young MEP is actually the Queen Consort of Hawaii, Emma- NOT Mary Ellen Pleasant.– The older lady sitting facing away from the camera is the only photograph of Mary Ellen Pleasant. — FYI


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