Mary Ann Shadd

Anti-slavery activist, publisher

Mary Ann Shadd was the founder and editor of the Provincial Freeman, a newspaper established for the black community of Upper Canada that began publication in 1853. She was an outspoken anti-slavery activist and advocate of women’s rights.

Shadd moved to Canada and settled in Windsor, Ontario in 1851. This move was to escape the threat of the Fugitive Slave Act, which enabled unlawful enslavement of African Americans. In Windsor she opened a school for black refugees, similarly escaping the threat of enslavement in America.

Born on October 9, 1823, Mary Ann Shadd was raised in a family of free black abolitionists living in the slave state of Delaware. By 1833 the Shadd family had moved to Pennsylvania

Mary Ann Shadd

“Mrs. Mary Ann Shadd”, MIKAN No. 3191895.

where Mary attended a Quaker school for black children. After graduating in 1839, Mary became a teacher at the age of 16. She helped found the Provincial Freeman in 1853, a weekly newspaper for the black community of Upper Canada. Although listed on the masthead as “M.A. Shadd, Publishing Agent,” in reality Mary was the editor of the paper. In 1854 Mary publically corrected the public misapprehension that “M.A. Shadd” was a man, and resigned from the newspaper shortly afterwards. After leaving the Provincial Freeman Mary resumed her teaching career in Chatham, Ontario. In 1856 she wed Thomas F. Cary of Toronto. During the American Civil War, Shadd returned to the United States to recruit black soldiers for the Union army. After the war, Mary (now a widow after the death of Cary in 1860) moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught at school, worked for the welfare of emancipated blacks, and studied law at Howard University School of Law. She graduated Howard in 1883 at the age of 60, and joined the National Woman Suffrage Association. Mary Shadd died of cancer in 1893; she was 70 years old.

Breon, Robin. The Story Of Mary Ann Shadd. Toronto Carib-Can. 1988.

Tobin, Jacqueline. From Midnight to Dawn: The Last Tracks Of The Underground Railroad.  Double Day. 2007.

Rhodes, Jane. Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest In The Nineteenth Century. Bloomington. 1998.

Sadlier, Rosemary. Mary Ann Shadd: Publisher, Editor, Teacher, Lawyer, Suffragette. Umbrella Press. 1995.