#WomeninMedia Spotlight: Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a prominent African American/Canadian journalist, teacher, anti-slavery activist, and lawyer.

Cary was born into a free African American family. She was introduced to the world of journalism at a very young age; her father worked for the famous abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, which was ran by the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Her father also worked as a conductor in the Underground Railroad and was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. She grew up in a home that often served as refuge for fugitive slaves, inspiring her to direct most of her writing and journalistic efforts towards anti-slavery activism.

Upon completing her education at a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania, Cary established a school for black children. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act however, Cary and her family moved to Canada. She wrote a report encouraging other African American people to emigrate in search of better lives, entitled: A Plea for Emigration; or Notes of Canada West, in Its Moral, Social and Political Aspect: with Suggestions respecting Mexico, West Indies and Vancouver’s Island for the Information of Colored Emigrants.

In Canada, Cary founded the newspaper The Provincial Freemen, which was a weekly newspaper for African Americans, specifically those who had escaped slavery. This earned her the title of the first female African American newspaper owner and editor in North America. She also founded another school in Canada, one open to all races.

Cary later returned to the United States during the Civil War to help with the war effort. During this time, she worked as a recruiting officer for the Union Army in Indiana. She focused on recruiting African Americans to join the fight against the Confederacy and against slavery.

Once the war was over, Cary continued to make new strides for herself and African American women as a whole. In 1883, she earned her law degree from Howard University–making her the second African American woman in the United States to earn a law degree.

Cary was a truly revolutionary and pioneering woman, journalist, and activist. You can read more about her and her work through these links: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/history-ethnic-cultural/under-northern-star/Pages/mary-ann-shadd-cary.aspx, https://www.biography.com/activist/mary-ann-shadd-cary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s