The History of Mary Shadd

Mary Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd, after whom our school is named, was a woman of incredible character, courage and determination. Born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1823, she was the oldest of thirteen children. Her parents were committed to helping Black slaves escape, and Mary's home was actually a station on the Underground Railroad. Mary's father also urged Blacks to obtain as much education as possible, to increase their chances of a good job. The Shadds moved to Pennsylvania, so their children could attend school, which was illegal for Blacks in Delaware. At the age of sixteen, Mary moved back to Delaware to organize a school for Black children. Over the next eleven years, she taught in schools for Black youth in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. During this time, she also wrote articles for the North Star, an Anti-Slavery newspaper. In 1851, she and her brother Isaac moved to Windsor, Ontario, where she established a school to teach the growing number of escaped slaves.

Two years later, Mary Ann Shadd founded the newspaper Provincial Freeman, the motto of which was, "Self reliance is the fine road to independence." She was the first Black woman editor and publisher of a newspaper in North America. Shadd used the paper to discuss all aspects of Black life in Canada, including topics such as segregation and discrimination.

During the Civil War in the United States, she was paid by the Union army to encourage Blacks to join the North in the fight against slavery. Shadd eventually became the first Black woman to finish a Law degree and continued to write letters and articles for newspapers. She increasingly turned attention to gender equality and actively participated in supporting rights for women. Shadd testified before Congress on women's suffrage. During her life she lectured extensively to many groups on subjects including race pride, the Ku Klux Klan, the Republican Party and women's rights.

We are proud to have this school named after such a wonderful example for our students.