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BREAKING THE ICE: The Mary Ann Shadd Story
Immigration History


Mary Ann Shadd opened her private integrated school in Windsor, Ontario. It was open to everyone. Henry Bibb, an established leader in the Black community, opposed this idea of integration, however, and he and Mary Ann became embroiled in open conflict. Their differences of opinion were spelled out on the pages of two of the Black community papers of the time.

Bibb's paper, the Voice of the Fugitive, openly attacked Shadd's ideas and her character. In response, Mary Ann Shadd started her own paper, the Provincial Freeman, and in doing so became the first Black woman in North America, and therefore probably the whole world, to found and edit a newspaper. The Provincial Freeman gave Shadd a means to communicate her convictions against segregation: she believed that separate churches, separate schools, separate communities, and separate newspapers would ultimately undermine the Black person's search for true freedom.

However, it could be said that it was the concentrated settlements of Blacks that allowed them to retain their distinct cultural identity and create a close-knit, self-sufficient community. The main institution of support was the church, usually Baptist or Methodist, which came into being because white congregations often refused Blacks as members. The church played not only a spiritual role, but a major social and political one within the Black community. In the 20th century the churches led the movement for greater educational opportunity and for civil rights(14).

Mary Ann Shadd's fight for the education and equality for Blacks led her to study, in the field of law. She received her legal papers from Howard University and started practising law when she was 60 years old. The legacy she left, in all her efforts in education, in publishing and then in law, was one of following through on one's own perceptions, and refusing to accept socially imposed limits. Her motto was that self-reliance is the true road to equality, to integration and to freedom.


14 - The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998).

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