LOS ANGELES (Thursday, January 16, 2020) – Before a sold-out audience this evening in Pasadena, The Huntington Library, in partnership with Brigham Young University, hosted another lecture in its education series - The Trials of Biddy Mason: Slavery, Mormonism and the Making of Black Los Angeles.
Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania) and Kevin Waite (Durham University) explored the role of the Mormon Church and the spread of slavery across the continent in the mid-19th century through the life of Bridget “Biddy” Mason. Last fall, the pair, along with Arlin Adams (University of Pennsylvania), were awarded an $242,000 collaborative research grant by The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for their project, “The Long Road to Freedom: Biddy Mason (1818–1891) and the Making of Black Los Angeles.” They were selected on the basis of their proposal to co-author a book and create a website detailing the story of freedwoman Biddy Mason, who played a pivotal role in developing the First African Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
Born into slavery in Georgia, Biddy was forcibly transported to Mississippi, then to Utah, and finally to the Mormon colony of San Bernardino in 1851. Five years later in a Los Angeles courtroom, she won freedom for herself and thirteen others, defeating the largest slaveholder in the West. She became one of the first prominent citizens and landowners in Los Angeles in 1850-60, laying the foundation for the city’s first black community.
Members of Biddy’s family, as well as Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation executive director Jackie Broxton and other board members were in the audience and were recognized by the speakers.
We would like to thank The Huntington and especially Bill Deverell (Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and a Professor of History at USC) for his introduction to Sarah Gordon and Kevin Waite. We look forward to working with them all in the future to bring Biddy's amazing story to new audiences.
About The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation
The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation was founded in 2013 as an outreach ministry of the First AME Church of Los Angeles. The non-profit foundation was created to provide meaningful services and support to foster youth while in care and more specifically when they "age out" of the system.
The foundation is named for Bridget “Biddy” Mason the organizer of First AME Church of Los Angeles. A former slave, Biddy petitioned a Los Angeles Court in 1856 and was granted her freedom. She became a legendary figure in the early Los Angeles community not only for her astute business acumen but for her philanthropy. Trained as a midwife she began her career earning $2.50 per day and later became a millionaire.
We hope her entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit will serve as inspiration to current and former foster care youth. Please go to biddymason.com for more information on our work for foster youth and follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/TheBiddyMason), Instagram (@biddy_mason) and Twitter (@biddy_mason).