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Bridget “Biddy” Mason: The first Black real estate mogul

Real estate moguls have been a part of our nation’s fabric for centuries, but the landscape once looked much different. Our first Black History Month spotlight features Bridget “Biddy” Mason, the United States’ first Black real estate mogul, following her journey from arduous origins to changing the game.

Mason’s major moves

What might it take to reach levels you’ve only dreamed of? For Bridget “Biddy” Mason, it took levels of ingenuity and courage most of us couldn’t imagine.

After being born into slavery in 1818, Bridget endured unspeakable hardship in multiple states in the South before being moved to San Bernardino, California. There, she met Charles H. Rowan and Elizabeth Flake Rowan, a free African American couple who helped her escape enslavement. They also mentored her on her path to being legally declared a free woman in 1856, at the age of 38.

Pivoting to prosper

While being enslaved, Biddy received training as a midwife and nurse. She treated some of the highest-profile individuals in Los Angeles, including Pío de Jesus Pico, the last governor of California before it became a part of the United States. After more of her autonomy was legally recognized, she learned about real estate through her work and leveraged her medical skills to save as much money as she could.

In 1872, after ten years of hard work and saving, she was able to purchase her first plot of land in present-day downtown Los Angeles, California, where she would build the First A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church — the oldest African American church in LA, which still operates today!


The exterior of First A.M.E. Church, built by Bridget "Biddy" Mason, the first Black real estate mogul


This deal was a boon for Biddy, fueling her ambition to focus her energy on real estate. Her portfolio blossomed to include large swaths of LA’s financial district and served as the fountain from which her philanthropic efforts flowed into the community. Ms. Mason used her abundant resources to open an elementary school and orphanage, planting seeds for future generations.

At the time of her passing in 1891, Biddy Mason had grown her real estate empire to a value over $300,000, which equals about $9.8 million today!

How we can be like Biddy

Bridget “Biddy” Mason showed us all how to access our network and use our talents to forge a better future. Not only did Biddy carve out a life many of her era could only dream of – she gave back as she built up, illuminating her community as an example of what it means to put legs to your dreams.

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