Bridget 'Biddy' Mason
There’s a secret park in Downtown Los Angeles. Tucked quietly between a reputable Italian restaurant and a public parking structure; you’d have to know exactly where you’re going to find it, otherwise you’d mistake it for one of the many forlorn alleys that adorn much of Los Angeles. There are no signs directing or signifying anyone of its existence. The map on the iPhone doesn’t locate it. The irony that the only park to be dedicated to a woman of African descent in the city, a woman that was once a slave, is an illustration of how the city has always regarded much of the unknown African American history it beholds.
BRIDGET ‘BIDDY’ MASON was born into slavery in 1810, in the state of Georgia. In 1840 she was sold to a newly married couple as a wedding gift. In 1847 the family that owned biddy moved to Pueblo, Colorado; bringing their slaves and cattle with them. From Colorado, they traveled to Salt Lake Valley, Utah. During the journey west, Biddy was valuable to the wagon company. She organized travelers, herded cattle, prepared meals, and midwifed while caring for her own children. She performed all of these tasks while walking the entire journey, over 1,700 miles. From Utah they finally decided to settle in California.
Once they arrived in California, she discovered that her master legally had no right to keep her enslaved. Eventually she took him to court, and won her and all of the other people owned by him their freedom.
From there she worked as a nurse and midwife. She began to purchase lots of land and eventually acquired a wealth of over $300,000.00 (for the time is millions). She opened the first all black hotels and schools. She fed black prisoners, who were being starved in prisons. I
n 1872 she helped found, and donated the land for the FIRST BLACK CHURCH IN LOS ANGELES, First African Methodist Episcopal (still operating today).
This park is on the land that was once hers. The park is adorable, clean, and it feels very relaxing.
Biddy died January 15, 1891. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Evergreen Cemetery in the neighborhood now known as Boyle Heights. On March 27, 1988, in a ceremony attended by the mayor of Los Angeles and members of the church she founded, (First A.M.E); her grave was marked with a tombstone.