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‘So much pride,’ family members say as Canada Post stamp featuring Mary Ann Shadd unveiled

For descendants of ground-breaking abolitionist and newspaper publisher Mary Ann Shadd, Tuesday’s unveiling of a Canada Post stamp featuring her image sparks “so much pride.” 

“We have always been on the forefront of making a difference in the community and … displaying Mary Ann and what she’s done … I’m just so proud of this,” said Brenda Travis, one of Shadd’s descendants from Chatham, Ont., who attended the unveiling on Tuesday. 

“[People] need to know our history, not just Black history, but our history. And she’s a part of our history.”

Shadd’s stamp was unveiled Tuesday in Chatham, part of Canada Post’s 2024 lineup. It will be available at local post offices and online beginning Jan. 29. 

Four women stand next to a large image of a stamp
A Canada Post stamp featuring Mary Ann Shadd, a ground-breaking abolitionist and newspaper publisher who ran a school in Windsor, was unveiled in Chatham, Ont., on Tuesday. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Shadd was born in 1823. In 1851, her family moved to Ontario, preparing to welcome Black people to Canada through the Underground Railroad.

She was the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper, the Provincial Freeman. She was also an educator who opened a school for Black and white students in Windsor, Ont., on the site of what is now Windsor city hall, and a lawyer. 

Shadd died in 1893 in Washington, D.C. 

A highly contrasted black and white image of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, with her hair pulled back. To your right is the front page of the the first issue of The Provincal Freeman newspaper.
Shadd is shown next to the front page of the Provincial Freeman on Sept. 2, 1854. The newspaper founded by Shadd was published in Ontario from 1853 to 1857. (Wikimedia)

Travis said Shadd’s legacy continues to instil the importance of education on current members of the Shadd family. 

“She was the first one to go to law school. She was in the women’s suffrage movement,” Travis said. “She’s made women know that they don’t need to stay in the kitchen, and cook and take care of children. They can do more than that.”

The stamp features the only known image of Shadd in purple with a floral background and the Provincial Freeman crest under her likeness. 

“I think it’s beautiful,” said Adrienne Shadd, a family member from Toronto who was involved in consultation on the stamp’s design. 

“Some of us really liked this particular image which is being used, so I’m really happy about that, and I think it’s going to live on for the ages.”

Shadd stamp marks 1st father-daughter stamps

Brandy Ryan, the director of equity, diversity and inclusion at Canada Post, said, “It’s so important to recognize Canadians who have made impacts … especially Black Canadians, because oftentimes, when we think of Canadian history, we don’t always think of Black history. But Black history is Canadian history. 

“Mary Ann Shadd was fantastic. Her legacy in Canada as someone who helped to shape this country is amazing.”

Ryan said Shadd’s stamp marks the first time Canada Post has honoured both a father and daughter on individual stamps: Shadd’s father, Abraham Shadd, was featured on a Canadian stamp in 2009. 

Purple stamps with a replica of a newspaper
Stamps featuring Mary Ann Shadd, North America’s first Black female newspaper publisher, are part of Canada Post’s 2024 stamp collection. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Born in 1801, he was a dedicated abolitionist who worked through the Underground Railroad. He was the first Black person to serve in Canadian public office when he was elected to the Council of Raleigh in Ontario in 1859. 

Adrienne Shadd said Mary Ann’s legacy of “fearlessness” inspires the family today. 

“She didn’t seem to shy away from criticizing and calling out leaders of the community, whether they were white, Black, and most of them were men, obviously,” Adrienne Shadd said. 

“There’s so many Shadds that have accomplished interesting and great things  … they obviously have a fearlessness to be able to do what they’re doing.”

Canada Post’s stamp lineup for 2024 will also include:

  • The first stamp featuring a solar eclipse ahead of the eclipse on April 8.
  • A series of stamps featuring graphic novelists.
  • A wildflower stamp series in March.
  • Yet-to-be-announced stamps “honouring Great Canadians and popular culture icons.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

A banner of upturned fists, with the words 'Being Black in Canada'.
(CBC)

 

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