Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1814–1904)

Mary Ellen Pleasant is one of the most colorful characters of California history. A determined woman who valued education and freedom, Mary Ellen, born into slavery, dreamed of equality for her people. She used her wits and her strikingly good looks to achieve her goal, as well as further herself financially and socially. Mary Ellen's story is full of mystery and deceit, as well as accomplishment and generosity.

Mary was born a slave in a plantation near Augusta, Georgia. She was the product of an illegitimate affair between her light-skinned slave mother and a Virginia planter. When she was 10, the plantation owner had decided to send Mary's rebellious mother away. Before her departure, she told Mary her father's name and that she was part of ...

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