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Mary Ann Shadd Cary at 200: Commemorating Her Life and Legacy

Mary Ann Shadd Cary at 200: Commemorating Her Life and Legacy

Mary Ann Shadd Cary
October 9, 1823–June 5, 1893

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s birthday and we are pleased to share events and resources that commemorate her life and legacy.

Shadd Cary was born in Wilmington, Delaware on October 9, 1823. She was an antislavery activist, educator, and lawyer as well as a pioneering newspaper editor, journalist, and publisher of The Provincial Freeman. She grew up in the strong Black communities of Delaware and Philadelphia before emigrating to Canada. After the U.S. Civil War, she moved to Washington D.C.

Across all of these places, Shadd Cary worked endlessly to empower and educate Black people in the United States and Canada through her public writing and speaking, editing, suffrage activism, and community organizing. She was a fearless advocate for her causes. As she wrote in an 1849 letter to Frederick Doulasss, “In anything relating to our people, I am insensible of boundaries.”

Read more about Mary Ann Shadd Cary at the Black Women’s Organizing Archive.

Have a related Mary Ann Shadd Cary event to add? Let us know at



SEPT. 25, 2023

The Mary Ann Shadd Cary Archives inscribed in the Canada Memory of the World Register

Archives of Ontario, Library and Archives Canada, and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO are pleased to announce that the Mary Ann Shadd Cary archives have been added to the Canada Memory of the World Register. UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme highlights the most significant elements of the world’s documentary heritage, while the Canadian Register showcases documentary heritage of national significance.

Upcoming Events


Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Essential Writings of a Nineteenth-Century Black Radical Feminist

Edited by Nneka D. Dennie

Join Nneka D. Dennie (Washington and Lee University), Jim Casey (Pennsylvania State University), Kristin Moriah Queen’s University), Jane Rhodes University of Illinois Chicago), Melvin Rogers (Brown University), and Jacinta Saffold (University of Delaware) for this celebration of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s 200th birthday.

Monday, Oct. 9 • 6:00-7:30 pm EST

Register at


Breaking the Ice: Mary Ann Shadd Cary Bicentennial Celebration

with Dr. Jane Rhodes and Leslie McCurdy

Saturday, Oct. 14 • 2:30-3:30 pm EST

Hosted by Literary Arts Windsor

Ticket information at BookFest/Festival du Livre Windsor 2023


From Grit to Glory: Celebrate Mary Ann Shadd Cary – City of Toronto

Mary Ann Shad Cary’s newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, fought for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women and helped people escaping enslavement adjust to life in Ontario. In Mary Ann’s words, she had “broken the editorial ice.” She hoped her example would inspire more Black women to write and publish.

Participate in free events celebrating Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s life, accomplishments and influences, and connecting her inspiring legacy with Shadd family descendants, academics, journalists and the Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine.


Celebration with Scholar and Artist Discussion

Saturday, Oct. 14 • 2:00-5:00 pm EST

Panel discussions hosted by award-winning journalist and associate professor Nana Aba Duncan with:

  • Adrienne Shadd, curator and author of The Underground Railway and The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway
  • Shannon Prince, Curator of the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum
  • Ed and Maxine Robbins, retired educators who donated original records of Mary Ann Shadd Cary to the Archives of Ontario
  • Kristin Moriah, Assistant Professor of English at Queen’s University
  • Rosemary Sadlier, author and Past President of the Ontario Black History Society
  • Rinaldo Walcott, author and Professor and Chair of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo
  • Nana Aba Duncan, journalist and Associate Professor, Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies at Carleton University
  • Rita Shelton Deverell, Chancellor, independent scholar, author and media artist
  • Allya Davidson, executive producer of CBC News’ The Fifth Estate.


Perspective of an artist sessions with Adeyemi Adegbesan, and Poetry Slam with performances by Poet Laureate of Toronto Lillian Allen and R.I.S.E Edutainment featuring Poet Laureate of Ontario Randell Adjei.


Talk and Neighbourhood Tour: Tracing Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s footsteps in mid-19th century Black Toronto

Sunday, Oct. 15 • 1:00-3:00 pm EST

Join Natasha Henry-Dixon, award-winning author and assistant professor of African Canadian History at York University, to explore the life and times of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Learn about her life in Toronto in the mid-1850s within a vibrant, growing Black community in an emerging city centre, her activism and her writings. The talk at Mackenzie House is followed by a short neighbourhood tour.


Printing Activities

Sunday, Oct. 15 • Drop in 11:00 am-4:00 pm EST

Stop by the museum’s recreated print shop to view printing demonstrations and print your own copy of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s newspaper, the Provincial Freeman.


Film screening of “Steadfast: The Messenger and the Message” and Q&A session

Friday, Oct. 20 • 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. • Doors at 6:30 p.m •  Todmorden Mills, Papermill Theatre, 67 Pottery Rd.

The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine is a Canadian icon who broke barriers and fought for social justice. Be inspired by this documentary film capturing Dr. Augustine’s journey from her humble beginnings in Grenada, West Indies, to her numerous achievements and accolades after immigrating to Canada in 1960.

Q&A session with Dr. Jean Augustine and Director Fahim Ali follows the film.

Pre-registration is required.


Ticket and more information for all events at Toronto History Museums.


Dear Cousin M: Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Genealogies of Resistance

A Presentation by Dr. Kristin Moriah

Thursday, Oct. 26 • 2:00 pm EST

Hosted by the Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Papers & Collections

 A working list of Shadd Cary’s known papers and collections of primary documents as located across numerous institutions, libraries, and repositories.

Images at left: The Provincial Freeman, Nov. 11, 1854 (Archives of Ontario). Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Passport, Feb. 28, 1865 (Source: Library and Archives Canada).



Mary Ann Shadd Cary

at the Black Women’s Organizing Archive


Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Herstory in the Colored Conventions

Curated by Brandi Locke


Mary Ann Shadd Cary The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century, New Edition

By Dr. Jane Rhodes


Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Essential Writings of a Nineteenth-Century Black Radical Feminist

Edited by Dr. Nneka D. Dennie


Unsung History: Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Interview with Dr. Jane Rhodes and Dr. Kristin Moriah


Mary Ann Shadd Cary 200th Anniversary

Artwork by Ernel Martinez from the “The Colored Conventions Movement and Beyond in Philadelphia” Mural Project

Previous CBDR-Sponsored Events


“Papers Worthy of Patronage”
Black Feminist Research Methods and the Digital Humanities

On. Dec. 1, 2022 at the Delaware Historical Society, Dr. Kristin Moriah discussed her work on the first-ever edited collection on pioneering thinker Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893) that centers innovative scholarly work from a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives. Plus a sneak peak overview of the classroom-friendly exhibit “Becoming Mary Ann Shadd Cary: A Life in the Pursuit of Justice” by Kelli Barnes and Dr. Arline Wilson.


Douglass Day 2023: Celebrate Shadd 200

On February 14, 2023, our annual transcribe-a-thon, broadcasted on YouTube, featured the papers of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. The event had 7,400 participants at 134 event locations who transcribed 65,737 pages from Mary Ann Shadd Cary collected archives in the U.S. and Canada.


Mary Ann Shadd Cary in the Here and Now

On Oct. 1 and 2, 2021, scholars, historians, archivists, and community members share papers and discuss next steps towards celebrating Shadd Cary’s 200th birthday in 2023. The event featured two scholar panels, an archivist round table, community planning, and two keynote speakers.


Dancing Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Activist Legacies

On Dec. 10, 2020 we saluted the Shadd’s Daughters Project: an oral history project of women journalists, educators, activists, and lawyers from the U.S and Canada who are carrying on Shadd Cary’s legacy as a pioneer in these areas. This event featured artistic performances of oral history excerpts embodied and expressed through dance.


Mary Ann Shadd Cary &the Power of Black Art

On October 9, 2020, Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s birthday,  scholars, writers, and artists whose scholarly and artistic work draws upon the powerful legacy of Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

Previous Events by Partners & Allies

Breaking the Ice: Launching Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Bicentennial Birthday Celebration in Windsor • March 22-25, 2022

Events hosted by Artcite Inc. and the Essex County Black Historical Research Society

The Black Press in Canada Conference • Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2022

The Black Press in Canada Conference brings together community research partners, students, and academic collaborators for a two-day event.