February Social Media Posts

These are the Facebook posts I wrote for Black History month (February) for the California Trail Interpretive Center.

February 4

For Black History month (February), we are looking at some African American experiences associated with the western emigration along the overland trails.

Mary Ellen Pleasant self-identified herself as “a capitalist” in the 1890 census. She was likely born free in Philadelphia, but records are unclear. Raised in the New England coastal communities, she worked to aid the efforts of the Underground Railroad. She was married twice, her first husband dying early in their marriage. Her second husband was a sea-cook, spending much of their marriage on the seas. Moving to California during the gold rush, she already had some measure of wealth from her first husband’s estate. She was a wise investor and worked as a domestic cook in the homes of other wealthy people, learning from them about investments.

She was a philanthropist who liked to use her money to help those in need and she became known in California as the “Mother of civil rights”, helping to fund the legal defenses of many African-Americans as they sought freedom in California. Contributing financially to John Brown for the Harper’s Ferry Slave Revolt and further aid with the Underground Railroad, she is also known for successfully winning a lawsuit against a San Francisco streetcar company in 1866 for refusing transport of her and other black patrons. Mary died in 1904 and requested “she was a friend of John Brown” be inscribed on her tombstone. The photograph is from Wikimedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ellen_Pleasant#/

February 11

For Black History month (February), we are looking at some African American experiences associated with the western emigration along the overland trails.

Barney Ford was born into slavery in Virginia in 1822. He eventually escaped and became a barber in Chicago where he met his wife Julia. They were married in 1849 and decided to go to California during the gold rush. However, they took transport on a ship from New York to the Isthmus of Panama, intending to cross and continue on to San Francisco. However, Barney recognized the opportunity to make money and provide a service by opening a hotel in the Isthmus that catered to gold-seekers making their way across. He was quite prosperous and returned to Chicago in 1855 when local politics became unsuitable to continue his freedom in Central America. He then followed the gold the Colorado in 1860 where he continued his success as an entrepreneur. He opened a barber shop in Denver, a restaurant, and several hotels. His home in Breckinridge, CO is now a museum.

Ford was influential in the fight for Colorado civil rights. He opened a school for African American children and worked on voting rights legislation. He is honored with membership in the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, the Colorado Black Hall of Fame, and a stained glass window image of him directly behind the Colorado legislature’s Speaker of the House desk. His photo was downloaded from https://www.historycolorado.org/story/collections-library/2017/02/08/barney-ford-african-american-pioneer

February 18

For Black History month (February), we are looking at some African American experiences associated with the western emigration along the overland trails.

Emily Fisher was born to slave owner Adam Fisher. Fisher moved to Missouri, along with all of his slaves, and acquired a farm east of Independence, where they all lived. Before Fisher died in the 1850s, he gave Emily her freedom and control of a hotel in Independence. She managed the hotel and it became well known for its amenities, cleanliness, and good service in this jumping off town. People of all races were welcome at her hotel, which was not the case at many other competing establishments. During the Civil War, hard times fell on the hotel business. However, her prosperity and entrepreneurship continued as the result of a secret recipe “healing salve” that she concocted and sold to overland trail travelers. Fisher’s prosperity enabled her to purchase and donate the first load of bricks used in the construction of the Second Baptist Church in Independence, which is the first African American church there and the oldest African American church building still remaining in the Kansas City area. The photo was downloaded from the National Park Service at https://www.nps.gov/people/emily-fisher.htm

February 25

For Black History month (February), we are looking at some African American experiences associated with the western emigration along the overland trails.

Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born in Mississippi in 1818 into slavery. Her last slaveowner, Robert Marion Smith, converted to the Mormon faith and took his family and slaves to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848 and then on to California in 1851. California was admitted to the Union as a “free” state and Smith decided, in 1856, to move to Texas to protect his right to own slaves. However, Biddy successfully petitioned the state for her freedom and was acknowledged as free by Los Angeles District Judge Benjamin Hayes. The ruling declared her and thirteen members of her extended family as free. Biddy continued living in the Los Angeles area, working as a nurse and investing her money in real estate. She became quite wealthy and became  well-known as a Los Angeles philanthropist. She organized the First A.M.E. church, the oldest African-American church, there. She was instrumental in opening a school for black children and founded at traveler’s aid center. Her life is honored by an art installation in the Biddy Mason Memorial Park in downtown Los Angeles. The photo was downloaded from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/mason-bridget-biddy-1818-1891/

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