Brooklyn Nets present The Untold: Mary Elizabeth Bowser

Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born a slave somewhere around 1839 on a plantation owned by John Van Lew of Richmond. Upon his death, his wife and daughter, Elizabeth, freed their slaves and arranged for Mary to be educated in Philadelphia. During the war, on a recommendation from Elizabeth Van Lew, Mary was placed on Jefferson Davis’ household staff in the Confederate capital of Richmond. Assuming she was a slave, Davis’ cabinet members and military leaders spoke openly in front of her about troop strategy and movement. She was able to read war dispatches and other important information Davis left laying around which she later passed to Union informers.

About The Untold

Presenting the stories you haven’t heard, and the stories you haven’t heard enough about. This is the mission of The Untold, bringing essential passages of our history to light through the eyes of modern-day Black historymakers: artists, activists, and athletes who push culture forward every day. Visit us each day in February for a new story as we present 28 untold stories of Black history.

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