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Mary Ann Shadd Cary
In the early 1800’s, slavery was legal in some states in the United States of America, but illegal in Canada. Slaves could free themselves from bondage by escaping and fleeing to a free state or Canada. But the journey along the way was risky and not many survived, many were recaptured, returned to their owner and put back to work. Along the way to a free state, fugitives had to have a place where they could eat and sleep in secret, called stations and the people who ran these stations were station masters. Many people helped fugitive slaves escape from bondage, some such as Mary Ann Shadd.
Mary Ann Shadd was born on October 9 1823, in Wilmington Delaware. Her parents, Abraham Shadd and Harriet Parnell Shadd, were free blacks; therefore their children were free blacks. The Shadd’s were a respectable and hard working family in a risky business, they took a terrible risk by hiding fugitive slaves in the basement of their home. The Shadds were station masters, their home a station of the underground railroad. The Shadds believed that all blacks would achieve equality with their white neighbors through education, hard work and thrift. The Shadds wanted what was best for their children, however the state of Delaware did not allow black children to attend school. So at the age of 10, Mary Shadd moved to West Chester, a free state of Pennsylvania, with her family. There she completed her education and moved back to Delaware and began a school for black children.
In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act was put into action, and the Shadd family was put at extreme risk, they were not safe from legal kidnappings. Fugitives looked toward Canada West(Ontario) for help because escaped slaves could not be legally removed from Canadian soil. As a result to the Fugitive Slave Act, the underground railroad now ended in Canada West, free blacks and fugitive slaves now poured into Canada. Since it was against the law to teach a slave to read and write, they were eager to learn when they reached Canada, more teachers and school were needed. In 1851 Mary moved to Windsor Ontario to set up a school. Henry and Mary Bibb were leaders of a local black community, and they had invited Mary to come and set up school. No quicker then Mary had set up school, she made enemies with Henry and Mary Bibb.
All though many people were trying to help the fugitive slaves, many people had different views on what should happen. Some people believed that slaves should go to Africa, or Canada(Mary’s view), or some people thought they should remain in the United States and fight to end slavery. Others thought that fugitive slaves should remain in Canada and be faced with the decisions like other groups of newly arrived immigrants; like living in the same closed neighborhoods and setting up their own private school and churches. This belief was called segregation and was favored by Henry and Mary Bibb. However Mary claimed that segregation caused black people to be treated as though they were a second-rate society. Mary believed that blacks in Canada should not cluster together but should spread out and attend existing schools and churches among white people. This was called integration and was strongly suggested by Mary Shadd.
In Windsor, Mary set up a private school which was open for all children white or black to attend, but no white children attend since they could attend public school at no cost. The school was a run-down old building which served as a day school for children during the day and a night school for adults during the evening. Students were eager to learn, but many could not afford the small monthly charges. However, Mary battled to pay the monthly fees until the American Missionary Association hired her, at half pay, as the teacher she was. This position remained until a few years after when Mary was fired for speaking out too much about problems.
After Mary was fired she decided a new newspaper was in great need. On March 24, 1853, Mary had founded a newspaper dealing with all aspects of black life in Canada. It was called The Provincial Freeman, and was a lively paper that took
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Slavery in the United States, Persons of National Historic Significance, Mary Ann Shadd, Mary E. Bibb, Fugitive slaves in the United States, Underground Railroad, Free negro, Black Canadians, Fugitive slave laws, Fugitive Slave Act, Cary
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