Mary Ellen Pleasant


Successful Businesswoman and Humanitarian

Mary Ellen Pleasant was a civil rights activist and entrepreneur who used her fortune to further the abolitionist movement. She worked on the Underground Railroad in several states, including California during the Gold Rush and won significant civil rights in the courts, earning the name 'Mother of Civil Rights in California.'

Mary Ellen Pleasant altered and [Read More ...]

Harriet Wilson


First African American Woman Novelist

Harriet Wilson is considered the first African American of any gender to publish a novel on the North American continent as well as the author of the first novel by an African American woman. Her novel Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black was published anonymously in 1859 in Boston, Massachusetts, and [Read More ...]

Annie Burton


Former Slave Who Became a Businesswoman

Annie Louise Burton was born a slave in Clayton, Alabama in 1858. She was the daughter of a woman named Nancy, the cook of Mr. and Mrs. William Farrin whose plantation was near Clayton. Annie's father, a white man born in Liverpool, England, owned a plantation that was a long walk from the Farrin [Read More ...]

Anna Brown


Wife of African American Author William Wells Brown

On April 12, 1860 twenty-five year old Anna Elizabeth Gray married William Wells Brown - author of Clotel, the first novel written by an African American in the United States. Anna later published Brown's works under the imprint A.G. Brown. They had one daughter, Clotelle, in 1862.

William Wells Brown (1814-1884) was [Read More ...]

Edmonia Highgate


Teacher of Former Slaves in the South

Teaching in the South during the Reconstruction era (1865-1877) took great courage. The women who traveled there to teach often feared for their lives but were determined to empower the freed slaves through literacy.

Image: The Misses Cooke's school room, Freedman's Bureau, Richmond, Va. In Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1866 Nov. 17, Library [Read More ...]