"Black American Frontiers"
"Black american Frontiers"
According to the author Lillian Schlissel , we had many black men and women in the the old west that we didn't know about."
"This the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant"
Like many of the black men and women whose stories are in this book, Mary Ellen Pleasant was born in the 1830's on a slave plantation in Georgia. She moved to Boston, and married a free black man and together they crossed the country to California . In those days, San Francisco was as much frontier town as Abilene or Dodge City, Kansas but instead of cowboy,s it was full of miners and railroad men.
Just before the start of the Civil war, the abolitionist John Brown was hiding some where in Canada; planing to lead an insurrection of salves at Harper's Ferry in Virginia. It is said that the black community in San Francisco raised $30,000 to support his cause, and that the money was carried to his secret headquarters in 1858 by a black women known as Mammy Pleasant.
Harper's Ferry, John Brown armed a group of slaves, and there was a heavy fighting. Brown was captured by the Virginia militia and a company of marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee He was tried and found guilty of treason , and hanged on December 12, 1859. Many considered Brown a madman, but the governor of Virginia said, He is a man of clear head; of courage, of fortitude, and simple ingenuousness. John Brown's act certainly hastened the start of the Civil War.
Although California was a free state, the rights of black citizens were far from secure. In San Francisco, with the war still going on, Mary Ellen Pleasant and two other black women did a daring thing. They filed a civil suit in San Francisco against a street car company that had refused to let them ride , because of their color. Suprisingly, the court supported their right to ride on public transportation in that city.
A century later, in 1955, another black women ; Rosa Parks, refused to move to the rear of the bus in Montgomery Alabama. That simple act, some people believe, marked the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in America. Mary Ellen Pleasant lived in San Francisco throughout her long life. She ran a boarding house, owned real estate, and was one the founders of the black community in that city.
Benny Faye Douglass