The Canadian Story
Every Canadian has a story which has fundamentally shaped who we are as individuals. Not only do these narratives illustrate differences from our values, beliefs, to background, they also depict the commonality we all share as Canadians, further painting the diverse heritage of our great nation. However, not all stories are expressed with equal glory and celebration. The textbooks in schools that should represent history are almost completely void of Black Canadians in their campaign for equality, overshadowed by supposedly more significant accomplishments of white men. With the contributions of characters such as Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary, it becomes evident the significance of the black community on Canada’s cultural mosaic, and such events cannot be overlooked. With values of black independence and self-reliance, Shadd’s story depicts the bravery of a female Black Canadian against the ideas of segregation and slavery, an inspiration for all Canadians.
From a young age, Shadd was exposed to the values of abolitionism, and perceived a future where everyone was equal, regardless of the colour of their skin. Born on the 9th of October, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware, she embraced her father’s view that education is the key to racial parity, and taught at schools across the United States to educate black students on the necessity to take the initiative and pave a path for themselves in the divided country. During the anti-slavery movement, Shadd herself became a leader in the campaign for the integration of Black citizens into society. However, with the advent of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, she fled from the United States and took her sense of righteousness and courage to Canada. This event was the catalyst for her endeavor towards racial equality, which she vehemently pushed towards in the new country.
Upon arriving in Canada, Shadd settled in Windsor and opened a non-segregated school for new Black emigrants. This was faced with an immense backlash from Henry Bibb, who favoured segregated communities. Consequently, this conflict resulted in the withdrawal of funding for her school. Despite the fierce opposition Shadd stood up for what she believes is right and did not conform to the perspectives of society. With her vision on integration and equality, her resistance was the turning point for abolishing racism, which redefined the meaning to be White or Black. Following this incident, Shadd began to write profusely to further advocate her values on integration, as well as encouraging Black Americans to immigrate to Canada. However, she desired a more reliable and continuing medium to diffuse her message. Disregarding the barriers of being a Black woman during a time of immense discrimination, she established The Provincial Freedom in 1853.
In a courageous effort to oppose and inspire Shadd became the first woman to publish a newspaper in North America. With a motto of "Self-reliance is the true road to independence", the newspaper was her voice, to publicize her thoughts on segregation. Despite the financial issues of the paper, she found countless solutions to raise money and continued the fight for abolition. Through this endeavor Shadd was able to promote a transformational era, inspiring the Black community to self-rely and assimilate into the Canadian society. After the subsequent downfall of the Provincial Freedom, Shadd continued her campaign for civil and equal rights, taking part in the American Civil War and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. She was designated a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada in 1994.
It is undeniable that the accomplishments of Mary Ann Camberton Shadd Cary have transformed the course of history. When faced with obstacles after obstacles on the road towards racial parity, she was unafraid to overcome these limitations and continue her ambition. Not only did she reshape the definition of race and self-worth, she challenged the fundamental perspectives on women in the 19th century. In the protest against segregation, she has become a prominent figure who has committed her entire life to fight for the Black community. Her ardent nature to never admit defeat has inspired Canadians to strive for a future of equal opportunity and condition, regardless of the colour of one’s skin, gender, or background.
With the inspiration of the pen, the passion of the brain, and the boldness of the heart, Shadd’s story resonates the innermost values that define Canadians – acceptance and equality. Her contributions for abolition, integration, self-reliance and black independence have painted a new picture in Canada’s diverse background, and have written a new chapter in the Canadian story.
“Mary Ann Shadd.” Black History Canada - Profiles, TD, blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&%3Bid=20. “Mary Ann Shadd.” Historica Canada, www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/mary-ann-shadd.Pedro, Kelly. “Remember me? Mary Ann Shadd Cary.” Toronto Sun, Toronto Sun, 23 Oct. 2013, torontosun.com/2013/10/23/remember-me-mary-ann-shadd-. Silverman, Jason H. “SHADD, MARY ANN CAMBERTON.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1990, www.biographi.ca/en/bio.php?BioId=40547. Yarhi, Eli. “Mary Ann Shadd.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Government of Canada, 6 Nov. 2013, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/mary-ann-shadd/.