Mary Ann Shadd Cary

You have a right to your freedom and to every other privilege connected with it and if you cannot secure these in Virginia or Alabama, by all means make your escape without delay to some other locality in God's wide universe.
—Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Born to a free African-American family in Wilmington, Delaware, MaryAnn Shadd was the first of 13 children. Her father was an abolitionist and a conductor on the Underground Railroad. From an early age, Mary was exposed to the anti-slavery movement, where she developed a good grasp of the issues and honed her debating skills. As it was against the law to educate blacks in Delaware, the family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania, where she attended a Quaker boarding school. At age 16, she returned to Wilmington to teach in a school for black children. Subsequently, she taught in New York and Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. This Act allowed free northern blacks and escaped southern slaves to be rounded up and sent to the South. This law also increased the flow of traffic on the Underground Railroad, which assisted escaping slaves to travel from the southern slave-holding states to the northern states and Canada. As blacks could no longer take their freedom for granted within the United States, Canada became a beacon of hope. Mary and her brother, Isaac, fled to Windsor, Ontario, in 1851.

In Canada, she continued her teaching and established a school that was open to people of all races, while continuing to devote herself to the abolitionist cause working on behalf of fugitive slaves. At this time, slave owners were desperately attempting to deter runaway slaves from seeking refuge in Canada. In order to quash horror stories concocted by southern slaveholders to thwart black immigration, Shadd published a forty-four–page pamphlet entitled A Plea for Emigration or Notes on Canada West in Its Moral, Social and Political Aspect: Suggestions Respecting Mexico, West Indies and Vancouver's Island for the Information of Colored Emigrants. In this pamphlet, she extolled the virtues of Canada, listed opportunities available to blacks in Canada, and urged them to move north of the 49th parallel. | Continued
back to top


Demanding Justice: A Story about Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Jeri Ferris and Kimanne Smith, Carolrhoda Books, 2003.
Buy it in paperback: |
Buy it in library binding: |

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century, Jane Rhodes, Indiana University Press, 1999.
Buy it in hardcover: |
Buy it in paperback: |

A Plea for Emigration by Mary Shadd, Mary Shadd Cary (Richard Almante, ed.), Mercury Press, 1998.
Buy it in paperback: |

Search for 'Mary Shadd' on or
back to top


Feed the hungry every time you search the Internet! Click here!