Meet William Leidesdorff, America’s First Biracial Millionaire

William Leidesdorff

Born in 1810, William Leidesdorff was a biracial West Indian immigrant who grew up in what is now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was the son of a Danish man and a woman of "mixed-race ancestry," and as an adult, he became a successful ship captain merchant of goods in his mid-thirties. 
Leidesdorff's routes led him from Mexico to California and even across the Pacific Ocean all the way to Hawaii. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Leidesdorff was skillful at walking the line between what many believed were polar opposites. Leidesdorff was both an American and Mexican citizen and at the same time a Black jew.

In his prime, Leidesdorff assisted greatly in the creation of San Francisco, California. He even helped the establishment of a public school system. According to the San Francisco Museum, he was even appointed Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845. This iconic moment in history has made him a figure of importance for immigrants like himself.

Unfortunately, Leidesdorff died young from a fever that took his life only three years later. He was only thirty-eight years old. However, his legacy is not forgotten. The city of San Francisco stands as a monument to the great works of public servant William Leidesdorff.