With the passing of Black History Month in February and International Woman’s Day on 8 March, I wanted to take the opportunity to honour an incredible individual who made enormous contributions to Black-Canadian and women’s rights in Canada. That individual is Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, informally known as Mary Ann Shadd. Though not born in Canada (Shadd was born in Wilmington, Delaware), Shadd settled in Sandwich, Canada West in 1851 (now Windsor, ON) and would eventually open a racially integrated school, which was located on the grounds of what is now Windsor City Hall Square. This was where Shadd differed from many abolitionists at the time, she was decidedly anti-segregation.
Perhaps Shadd’s biggest contribution to the anti-slavery, anti-segregation, and women’s rights movements came on 24 March 1853 when she published the newspaper called The Provincial Freeman. This made Shadd the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper, as well as one of the first female journalists ever in Canada. Furthermore, The Provincial Freeman became Canada’s first anti-slavery newspaper.
With institutional racism towards the Black community still largely prevalent in Canada and with the Black Lives Matter movement still ongoing, I could not think of a more relevant historical figure to write about in a Canadian context than Mary Ann Shadd. I would like to see individuals like Shadd to be honoured more in Canadian spaces to highlight some of the amazing contributions that the Black community has made to Canadian society.
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