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Meet Biddy Mason, a Black Woman Who Helped Build Los Angeles

Black Women in History

Meet Biddy Mason, a Black Woman Who Helped Build Los Angeles

By Jill Cowan via

When you think of the people who built Los Angeles, the names that most likely jump to mind — William Mulholland, the Chandlers — are often those of white men. It’s not surprising, and it’s not unusual among American cities.

That’s why, when I heard Laura Atkins, a Berkeley-based children’s book author, mention Bridge Mason, known as Biddy, on an episode of the podcast East Bay Yesterday, I took note.

Ms. Mason, she said, had been born enslaved, won her freedom in a California court in the mid-1850s and eventually became a prominent downtown L.A. landowner — not to mention the growing metropolis’s richest woman.

She organized the city’s First A.M.E. church and was a philanthropist.

It’s Black History Month, so I’ve been thinking about what it means to honor the legacies of people whom history has traditionally left out.

Ms. Atkins and Arisa White, a poet, have written a book about Ms. Mason’s life, “Biddy Mason Speaks Up,” part of a series about civil rights leaders. So I asked them how they…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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