Mary Ann Shadd Cary

For this year’s Douglass Day celebration, we will be featuring a new crowdsourcing project on the papers of Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893). We will be announcing our library and archive partner institutions, the digital project, speakers, and much more in Fall 2022.

Join us for Douglass Day 2023

Celebrate Shadd 200

Short Biography

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893) was an activist, journalist, teacher, intellectual, and lawyer. Shadd Cary was one of the earliest Black women to found and edit a newspaper, attend law school, and serve as a Civil War recruiter. She grew up in the strong Black communities of Delaware and Philadelphia before emigrating to Canada. After the US Civil War, she moved to Washington DC. 

Across all of these places, Shadd Cary worked endlessly to empower and educate Black people in the United States and Canada through her public writing and speaking, editing, suffrage activism, and community organizing. She was a fearless advocate for her causes. As she wrote in an 1849 letter to Frederick Dogulass, “in anything relating to our people, I am insensible of boundaries.” 

Major Life Events

1823 – Born in Wilmington, DE (Oct 9)

1849 – Self-published Hints to the Colored People of the North (no known copies survive)

1851 – Emigrated to Canada

1852 – Self-published A Plea for Emigration; or Notes of Canada West

1853 – Founded The Provincial Freeman newspaper

1856 – Married Thomas Cary

1863 – Returned to the US to recruit Black troops for the Union Army

1869 – Enrolled at Howard Law School

1880 – Founded the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association

1893 – Died in Washington, DC

Suggested Resources to Learn More

Shorter readings

Books & Exhibits

Short Videos


Stay tuned for a variety of new books coming out in 2023 & 2024!

Links to Digital Collections

Have more resources to share? Please e-mail us at douglassdayorg AT gmail dot com!

Recent Events

Mary Ann Shadd Cary and the Power of Black Art – Oct 9, 2021 (detailed program & speaker info)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: In the Here and Now, day 1 of 2 (detailed program & speaker info)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: In the Here and Now, day 2 of 2 (detailed program & speaker info)

Awakenings Reflections with Adeyemi Adegbesan on “Luminary: Mary Ann Shadd” (Toronto, Canada)