Mary Ellen Pleasant, businesswoman and abolitionist, moves to California and prospers. She becomes one of the first self-made wealthy Black women in the U.S.
1849 (Apr 1)
Mary Ellen Pleasant, also referred to as Mammy Pleasant, moved to San Francisco from Boston where she had met William Lloyd Garrison. In California, Pleasant opened a restaurant and boarding house, managed estates, and made loans. She is believed to have rescued enslaved Blacks who were being held illegally and to have worked to secure Blacks' rights to testify in court and ride street cars. Pleasant was also said to have given money to John Brown to help his attack on Harpers ferry. But Pleasant, believed to be of Black and Indian blood, holds a more prominent name as the planner and operator of the house of mystery, a brothel. She also admitted to helping one of her women forge a marriage contract in order to gain wealth through divorce. She was arguably the first self-made millionaire of Black American heritage, preceding Madam C. J. Walker by decades.