Mary Ann Shadd Cary
: North America’s first Black female newspaper publisher was honored recently at the Ontario Black History Society’s (OBHS) Black History Month launch. A plaque was unveiled in honor of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a women’s right advocate, lawyer, teacher and publisher of The Provincial Freeman, and Dr. Carrie Best, Publisher of Nova Scotia’s first Black-owned newspaper The Clarion.
Mary Ann Shadd was born to a family of free Black abolitionists in the slave state of Delaware October 9, 1823. The family moved to Westchester, Pennsylvania when she was 10 years old. In 1850 when the US Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act into Law, she and her brother Isaac moved to Windsor, Ontario, to escape the threat of unlawful enslavement, where she founded a school for Black refugees. In 1853 she co-founded The Provincial Freeman newspaper with Samuel Ward and published out of an office at 143 King St. E. in Toronto. The paper’s masthead listed her as M.A. Shadd and when she decided to change the masthead to indicate the editor was Mary A. Shadd it unleashed a wave of gender discrimination, which nearly shut down the paper. She placed the publication in the hands of a “gentleman editor” and left the paper in 1854.
In 1856 she married Thomas Cary, a Toronto barber. They had two children. She resumed her teaching career in Chatham, Ontario. When her husband died in 1860, Shadd Cary returned to the U.S. She attended Howard University School of Law and became the second Black American woman to graduate Law School in 1883. She practiced law until she died in 1893.
Adrienne Shadd, a great grand niece, was in attendance at the unveiling and said, “We are really honored that this plaque has come to fruition.” The plaque will be located at the former publishing house site, which is close to St. Lawrence Hall where the first convention of Colored Freeman to be held outside the U.S. took place.
Dr. Carrie Best:
Carrie Prevoe was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on March 4, 1903. Her parents were James and Georgina Prevoe. She married Albert T. Best, a railway porter in 1925. They had one son and two adopted daughters.
Carrie Best was a poet, author, journalist, human rights activist and in 1946 the publisher of Nova Scotia’s first Black-owned newspaper The Clarion which she ran for 10 years. She also started The Quiet Corner, a popular radio show that was broadcast for 12 years until 1964. She was a columnist for the Pictou Advocate from 1968-1975 and self-published her autobiography “That Lonesome Road” in 1977.
Among her numerous achievements and awards; she was a made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1974 and promoted to Officer in 1979. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) by St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia in 1975. In 1992 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws (DC.L) by the University of Kings College in Halifax. In 2002 she received the Order of Nova Scotia. Dr. Best worked tirelessly in and for her community until her death at age 97 on July 24, 2001.
At the OBHS Black History Month launch, Canada Post issued a stamp in her honor. Best’s grandson Kevin and his wife Arwa Mhawi were in attendance and helped to unveil the stamp.