This Day in History

March 24, 1853: Mary Ann Shadd Cary Published “The Provincial Freeman”

Time Periods: 1850
Themes: African American, Women's History
Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary. National Women’s Hall of Fame.

On March 24, 1853, Mary Ann Shadd Cary published the first edition of The Provincial Freeman, Canada’s first anti-slavery newspaper, making her the first Black woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper.

Shadd Cary was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1823 where her parents were abolitionists and their home was a station on the Underground Railroad. They moved to Pennsylvania so that their children could attend school because the education of Black children was illegal in Delaware.

Shadd Cary studied at a Quaker school and became an educator, teaching for 12 years. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which was a threat to the safety of all African Americans, her family moved to Canada.

In addition to founding and publishing The Provincial Freeman, Shadd Cary also wrote and published a pamphlet encouraging other Black people to settle in Canada. She supported John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry and helped Osborne P. Anderson publish his firsthand account of the raid.

She returned to the United States where she became active in the women’s suffrage movement and she studied law at Howard University. After initially being denied access to the bar, she received her law degree in 1883.

Shadd Cary was a fierce abolitionist and remained a pioneer throughout her life, carving out a space for herself as a Black woman in the public sphere. Read more about Shadd Cary in Library and Archives Canada and in the New York Times “Overlooked No More” obituary. Find related resources below.