Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a teacher, publisher, and lawyer born in the United States who emigrated to Canada until the Civil War was over and slavery abolished. She worked as an anti-slavery and civil rights activist, and published and edited a weekly newspaper called The Provincial Freeman.
Mary Ann Shadd was born in Delaware in the United States in 1823, the oldest of 13 children. Her father, Abraham Shadd, was active as a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and as a conductor on the Underground Railroad helping escaped slaves travel north to freedom.
Mary Ann’s family moved to Pennsylvania when she was young, after it became illegal to educate African American children in Delaware. After attending and graduating from a Quaker school, Mary Ann founded her own school for black children and continued teaching for several years.
After the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, making it dangerous for even free blacks to live in the United States, Mary Ann moved with her family to Windsor, Ontario in Canada, where she founded and taught at a racially integrated school.“It is better to wear out than to rust out.” Abolitionist Mary Ann Shadd Cary #herstory Click To Tweet
She married a barber from Toronto named Thomas F. Cary in 1856, but he died just four years later in 1860.
Publishing The Provincial Freeman
Mary Ann Shadd started publishing a weekly newspaper called The Provincial Freeman in 1853, making her the first black female newspaper editor in North America, and the first known female publisher in Canada.
The newspaper was meant for an African American audience, especially escaped slaves, and touched on topics related to the abolition of slavery, temperance, and other issues. Mary Ann wrote many articles herself and often used the paper to encourage black Americans to emigrate to Canada.
Mary Ann Shadd Accomplishments
Mary Ann Shadd traveled often in order to gather research for The Provincial Freeman and to speak on topics like abolition, temperance, and to promote education and self-reliance among black Americans and Canadians.
After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in the United States, she returned to the US to attend Howard University School of Law as their first female student. In 1881, at the age of 60, she became the second African American woman to earn a law degree.
The Mary Ann Shadd Cary House
The former house of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, at 1421 W Street, Northwest in Washington, D.C., was officially recognized by the United States government as a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Mary Ann lived in the house from 1881 to 1885, where she practiced law after obtaining her degree from Howard University.
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