Abolitionist’s Legacy Enshrined

Mary Ann Shadd Cary fonds added to Canada Memory of the World Register.
Written by Sean Smith Posted August 31, 2023

Mary Ann Shadd Cary spent her life fighting slavery. An abolitionist, author, educator, feminist, journalist, and lawyer, she founded the Provincial Freeman in what’s now Ontario in 1853, becoming the first woman newspaper publisher in Canada.

Now, on the two hundredth anniversary of her birth, Shadd Cary’s legacy — and, more specifically, her fonds at the Archives of Ontario and at Library and Archives Canada — is being enshrined in the Canada Memory of the World Register, which is maintained by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO).

“Mary Ann Shadd Cary was an extraordinary woman who made notable contributions to many fields, including the abolitionist movement, early newspaper publishing, Black education, and gender equality,” an official with CCUNESCO said. “This collection is the most complete documentation of Shadd Cary’s life while she was living in Canada and is essential to building a more inclusive understanding of the country’s history.”

The Memory of the World Programme was launched by UNESCO in 1992 to preserve documentary heritage of global significance. The Canada Memory of the World Register, which recognizes national significance, was created in 2017.

Born on October 9, 1823, in Wilmington, Delaware, to free African-American parents, Shadd Cary and her family moved to Canada West (now Ontario) in 1851 to escape the threat of enslavement. Two years later she founded the weekly Provincial Freeman, which was “devoted to antislavery, temperance, and general literature.”

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This article originally appeared in the October-November 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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