- Biddy Bridget Mason was a slave handed to a couple as a marriage gift while she was very young
- History has it that Biddy, because of her smartness, was able to sue her supposed slavemaster leading to her freedom
- The African woman became built a school, a church and provided for many others in need around her
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Biddy Bridget Mason was born into slavery and supposedly given out as a wedding gift, but she grew to become famous for her philanthropy and successful entrepreneurship.
Though her date of birth was given as August 15, 1818, by Wikipedia, Ask a Slave: The Web Series reports that she was handed over to a couple identified as Robert and Rebecca Smith.
The report adds that in 1847 at age 32, Biddy Mason was forced to walk from Mississippi to Utah in the United States, a distance said to be about 2650.59 kilometres when travelling in a car.
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She trekked the distance tending cattle behind her master’s 300-wagon caravan.
After four years in Salt Lake City, the report said the couple took her and others to a new Mormon settlement in San Bernardino, California in search of gold.
Read the details as shared by Morris Spinner below:
Biddy Mason soon discovered that the California State Constitution made slavery illegal, and that her master planned to move them all to Texas to avoid freeing them. With the help of some free blacks she had befriended, she and the other slaves attempted to run away to Los Angeles, but they were intercepted by Smith and brought back. However, when he tried to leave the state with his family and slaves, a local posse prevented his flight. Biddy had Robert Smith brought into court on a writ of habeas corpus. She, her daughters, and the ten other slaves were held in jail for their own safety until the judge heard the case and granted their freedom.
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"Now free, Mason and her three daughters moved to Los Angeles where they worked and saved enough money to buy a house at 331 Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Biddy was employed as a nurse, midwife, and domestic servant. She was one of the first black women to own land in the city of Los Angeles. She had the gumption to use part of her land as a temporary resting place for horses and carriages, and people visiting town paid money in exchange for space. This can be considered the first "parking lot" in Los Angeles!
"Knowing what it meant to be oppressed and friendless, Biddy Mason immediately began a philanthropic career by opening her home to the poor, hungry, and homeless. Through hard work, saving, and investing carefully, she was able to purchase large amounts of real estate including a commercial building, which provided her with enough income to help build schools, hospitals, and churches. Her financial fortunes continued to increase until she accumulated a fortune of almost $300,000. In today's money, that would be $6M. Her most noted accomplishment is the founding of the First AME Church in California. #BiddyMason #BlackHistory"
Her most noted accomplishment was the founding of First African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, now the oldest church founded by African Americans in Los Angeles, where she also operated a nursery and food pantry. Moreover, her generosity and compassion included personally bringing home-cooked meals to men in state prison.
In 1988, Mayor Tom Bradley had a tombstone erected at her unmarked gravesite and November 16, 1989, was declared “Biddy Mason Day”. In addition, the highlights of her life were displayed on a wall of the Spring Center in downtown Los Angeles, an honor befitting Los Angeles’s first Black female property owner and philanthropist.
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