Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason
Born into slavery in Mississippi, Biddy Mason grew up to be a successful real estate developer and human-rights champion. But before she did all that, Biddy successfully sued her owners for her freedom after the family and their slaves moved to the free state of California in the 1850s.
A decade after winning freedom for herself and her three daughters, Biddy became one of the first black women to own land when she purchased commercial property in what is now the heart of downtown Los Angeles for $250. She turned her initial investment into a small real estate empire worth about $300,000 in 1884.
In addition to being the 19th century version of a real estate mogul, Biddy made significant philanthropic contributions to Los Angeles. People in need often lined up outside her home to ask for assistance, and Biddy responded generously. She provided food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless. Along with her son-in-law, Biddy also established the city’s first African-American church.