Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

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Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park

One of the smallest parks in San Francisco honors the legacy of the "Mother of Civil Rights in California." 


Scattered in and around the 47 square miles that make up the city of San Francisco are 220 parks. They vary in size, from the sprawling green space that is Golden Gate Park to the minuscule one that is Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park. Which basically covers the ground that consists of six eucalyptus trees and a plaque.

Mary Ellen Pleasant was born into slavery sometime at the beginning of the 1900s and escaped persecution when she arrived in California in 1852. She amassed a great fortune through her popular businesses, which included; dairies, laundries, and high-class restaurants. She had a penchant for being very savvy and forthright with her finances. So much so that she became one of America’s first Black female millionaires, along with Madam C.J. Walker.

In addition to hiring formerly enslaved people to work in her many enterprises, Pleasant also donated large sums of money to support the Underground Railroad. This was a vast network of people who would offer aid and shelter to enslaved people. She also campaigned for the end of slavery in the state of California and fought to desegregate the city’s street cars.

The city of San Francisco designated the six trees Pleasant planted herself, along with the plaque, as a Structure of Merit in 1974. The area of Octavia and Bush Streets is in the vicinity of where the “Mother of Civil Rights in California” once owned a mansion. It’s common for ghost tours to start at the small park, where some say that Pleasant’s spirit remains among the trees.

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