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Mary Ellen Pleasant (1868)

1868: Mary Ellen Pleasant, an African-American and former slave, sues for the right of blacks to ride the San Francisco trolleys without fear of discrimination; her victory in the California Supreme Court set a precedent that was upheld as California law and applied to cases as late at 1983.

Mary Ellen Pleasant, 1814-1904; born a slave near Augusta, Georgia; arrived in San Francisco in April, 1852 to escape persecution under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, for slave rescue work in the East, forced to use two identities to thwart capture under California's Fugitive Slave Act. Went on to become celebrated as a philanthropist and business woman and to amass a $30,000,000 fortune with her secret partner, Scotsman, Thomas Bell. Text courtesy of  Image courtesy of San FranciscoPublic Library History Center.