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Themes - Writing

Mary Shadd Cary

Photograph of Mary Shadd Cary


Editor and Civil Rights Advocate


Mary Ann Shadd was born a free black on October 9, 1823, in Wilmington, Delaware. When the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act threatened to return free northern blacks and escaped slaves to bondage, Shadd moved to Windsor, Ontario. Here, in 1851, she established a school to accommodate the influx of black refugees from the United States.

In 1853 Shadd established the Provincial Freeman, a weekly paper designed to cover the lives of Canadian blacks and promote the cause of black refugees to Canada. The first black woman in North America to edit a weekly paper, Shadd complemented her active anti-slavery efforts and editorials with articles on women and their contributions. At a time when it was still uncommon for women to speak in public, Shadd lectured frequently in the United States against slavery and for black emigration to Canada in an effort to keep the paper viable. Despite her efforts, the Provincial Freeman fell victim to the economic depression of the day and ceased publication in 1858.

After her husband's death in 1860, Mary and her two children left Canada. Mary became a recruiter in the Union army during the American Civil War, and later a school principal. Finally, at age 60, she attained a law degree to further assist in her struggle for the rights of blacks and women.


Bearden, Jim and Linda Jean Butler. — Shadd: the life and times of Mary Shadd Cary. — Toronto: NC Press Ltd., c1977. — 233 p. — ISBN 0919600735

Hill, Daniel G. — The freedom-seekers: blacks in early Canada. — Agincourt: The Book Society of Canada, c1981. — 242 p. — ISBN 0772552843

Winks, Robin. — The blacks in Canada. — Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, c1971. — 546 p.— ISBN 0300013612

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