Mother of Civil Rights in California
Who was Pleasant?
Mary Ellen Pleasant was born a slave in Georgia circa 1817. She rose to command a joint fortune once assessed at $30,000,000! In a time when African Americans were rarely given a byline in the mainstream press, she was the subject of full-page articles. And, her work took on national significance, when she aided the abolitionist John Brown. An MLK, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X combined, she left a legacy that changed modern-day civil-rights law. You deserve to know her.
Called "The Mother of Civil Rights in California" from work begun in the 1860s, her achievements went unsurpassed until the 1960s. Pleasant was once the most talked-about woman in San Francisco. Her dramatic life was part of the story of slavery, abolition, the gold rush, and the Civil War, and she helped shape early San Francisco.
Americans today deserve to know her because she could love across boundaries of race and class without losing sight of her goal -- equality for herself and her people. However, Pleasant's life has been distorted and obscured by myth and mis-information. Thus, although this daring woman won battles and faced life, success, power, desertion, betrayal, and death head on, she lost the battle for her own good name. At the end of her life, her covert schemes began to go awry, and her enemies "scandalized her name."
By the end of the century, via the popular press, Pleasant had been labeled "Mammy Pleasant, angel and arch fiend, a madam, and even a murderess" -- her story indiscriminately plunged into myth, gossip, and half truths. The tabloid accounts of that day became the basis for the 20th-century social histories that writers still quote. Thus, before Susheel Bibbs' recovery of lost writings and accounts by Pleasant and her contemporaries, it had been difficult to unravel fact from the fiction of Pleasant's colorful life. Now it can be done, and Pleasant's inspiring story, so needed today, can be told.
Whether coming to California during the gold rush or fighting for civil rights once there, Pleasant exhibited both risk and ambition for her own advancement and that of her people. The real questions are "Where did she get her courage," and "How did she learn to love amid her struggles"? Bibbs' deeply researched versions of Pleasant's life on stage, in film and in writing answer those questions as they solve some of the mysteries of Mary Pleasant.
Bibbs' forthcoming biography should supply the rest.
Who is Susheel Bibbs?
Susheel Bibbs, a critically acclaimed touring classical singer, actress, scholar,and filmmaker, who has been named the foremost expert on Mary Ellen Pleasant. Bibbs has researched Pleasant's life for over 25 years and has uncovered lost memoirs, letters, and interviews that allow her to resolve many of the mysteries that have enshrouded Pleasant's amazing life for over 100 years.
Bibbs currently tours nationwide, presenting original one-woman musical and dramatic programs and screening her award-winning documentary films based on her research. She has written an Amazon best-selling book on Mary Pleasant's life and civil rights achievements called Heritage of Power and won 6 international awards for her PBS films on Pleasant. Bibbs currently heads The Living Heritage Foundation, which she founded to sponsor professional artists/projects fiscally and to offer grants to those who have presented African American arts and women of note.
Pleasant News and Events
Look for this film on PBS and on DVD on Amazon
The Legacy of Mary Ellen Pleasant (30 mins)
soon on Amazon Video Direct