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Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born free in the slave state of Delaware in 1823. Her parents, Abraham and Harriet Parnell Shadd, were abolitionists, and their home was a station on the Underground Railroad. In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which compelled Americans to assist in the capture of runaway slaves and levied heavy penalties on those who did not comply. Shadd Cary and her family moved to Canada West (known today as Ontario) in 1851, where she opened a school in Windsor catering to the area's growing fugitive slave population.

Following her move to Windsor, Shadd Cary gained prominence as an important figure and influential leader within several antislavery societies. In 1853, Shadd Cary was actively involved in founding the weekly newspaper The Provincial Freeman, in which she published content that advocated for equality, integration, and self-education of Black people in Canada and the United States, and promoted emigration to Canada. Shadd Cary continued in her role as a schoolteacher in Chatham, Ontario, and in 1862 became a naturalized citizen of Canada West during the first years of the American Civil War, but returned to the United States thereafter.

LAC received the collection of original material relating to Mary Ann Shadd Cary in 1960 and 1964 from her granddaughter Muriel E. Thompson. This donation included correspondence between Shadd Cary’s family members, her naturalization certificate for Canada West, her passport for the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec), as well as portions of an edition of The Pioneer Press, published in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Most significantly, however, this donation included the only known photograph of Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

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