Mary Ellen Pleasant was a New England Underground Railroad agent who fled to California to avoid prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
During the Gold Rush era she gave financial aid to freedom seekers and fought racial injustice through the courts. Pleasant owned property in both San Francisco and Oakland, and owned the boardinghouse that sheltered freedom seeker Archy Lee.
Pleasant also contributed financially to John Brown’s bloody raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Pleasant was also an early civil rights agitator who filed lawsuits against San Francisco railway companies for refusing to stop for African American passengers.