Mary Ann Shadd Cary, born in Delaware in 1823, was a teacher, a writer, an abolitionist, a suffragist, and a lawyer, and is considered to be the first Black woman to publish and edit a newspaper in North America, The Provincial Freeman. When abolitionist Frederick Douglass asked readers of his newspaper in 1848 for suggestions on how to improve life for African Americans, Shadd Cary answered: “We should do more and talk less,” and she spent her life following that motto in both the United States and in Canada, despite the challenges she faced both as an African American and as a woman.
To help us understand more, I’m joined by Dr. Jane Rhodes and Dr. Kristin Moriah. Dr. Rhodes is a Professor of Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago and author of Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century. Dr. Moriah is Assistant Professor of African American Literary Studies at Queen's University and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Black Digital Research (CBDR) at Penn State where her projects include digitizing Mary Ann Shadd Cary's papers.
Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The image is the only known photograph of Mary Ann Shadd Cary; the photographer is unknown.
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Kelly Therese Pollock 0:00
This is Unsung History, the podcast where we discuss people and events in American history that haven't always received a lot of attention. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then talk to someone who knows a lot more than I do. Be sure to subscribe to Unsung History on your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. And please tell your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, maybe even strangers to listen too. Today we'll be talking about African American activist, writer, teacher and lawyer, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who is considered to be the first Black woman to publish and edit a newspaper in North America. Mary Ann Shadd was born on October 9, 1823, in the slave state of Delaware, the first of 13 children born to free African Americans, Abraham Doras Shadd, and Harriet Burton Parnell. Her parents were dedicated abolitionists. And Abraham was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and later President of the National Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Color in Philadelphia. The family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania, when it became illegal to educate African American children in Delaware. Although her family was Catholic, Mary Ann attended a Quaker boarding school. After her own schooling was completed, Shadd turned to educating other children, first establishing a school for African American children in East Chester, Pennsylvania, and later teaching in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and in New York City. In 1848, abolitionist Frederick Douglass asked in his North Star newspaper for readers to suggest ways of improving life for African Americans. Shadd wrote a long letter to the newspaper, a portion of which was published. Her message, "We should do more and talk less. We have been holding conventions for years. We have been assembling together and whining over our difficulties and afflictions, passing resolutions on resolutions to any extent. But it does really seem that we have made but little progress considering our results." In 1850, a new Fugitive Slave Act was passed in Congress. This was not a new concept. The Constitution included a Fugitive Slave Clause that stated that no person held to service or labor would be released from enslavement in the event that they escaped to a free state. In 1793, Congress enacted the first Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed enslavers or their agents, the right to search for escaped slaves within free states. There was widespread resistance to the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act. In 1850, as part of a compromise to try to keep the southern states in the union, a new Fugitive Slave Act was passed, which compelled citizens to assist in the capture of escaped slaves, and denied enslaved people the right to a jury trial. Passage of this new act made life difficult for families like the Shadds, who helped escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad, and could even result in the kidnapping of free Black people into slavery, since there would be no jury trial. With the passage of this act, Mary Ann Shadd felt that her options and those of all African Americans would be better in Canada. And she moved to Ontario, which was then called Canada West. She settled in Windsor across the border from Detroit, where she founded a racially integrated school, supported in part by The American Missionary Association. In 1852, she published a pamphlet entitled "A Plea for Emigration, or Notes on Canada West" to encourage more African Americans to emigrate to Canada. In 1853, Shadd founded her own newspaper, "The Provincial Freeman."
So that the newspaper would not be dismissed as the work of a woman, Shadd persuaded a Black abolitionist, named Samuel Ringgold Ward to help publish it along with white clergyman Reverend Alexander McArthur. Although their names were on the masthead, Shadd was the main force behind the paper. The first prototype issue was published on March 24 ,1853, in Windsor, with the phrase, "Union Is Strength" under the nameplate. After a summer lecture tour in the United States, Shadd moved the publication of "The Provincial Freeman" to Toronto, which had a larger population to support the paper. A year after the prototype issue had appeared, the paper launched in Toronto and settled into a weekly publication schedule with new issues every Saturday. In summer 1854, Mary Ann's sister, Amelia Shadd, had arrived to fill in for Mary Ann while she was away on fundraising trips. In March of 1855, their brother Isaac joined the paper to sell subscriptions. Over time, Shadd was more public about her identity, openly revealing in print that she was the editor, which was already an open secret. In summer, 1855, Shadd stepped down as editor, frustrated that she could not gain more support from the Black community in Toronto, and bitter by her reception as a woman editor. She turned over the editorship to Baptist minister William P. Newman, at least symbolically, writing on June 30, 1855, "To colored women, we have a word, we have broken the editorial ice, whether willingly or not, for your class in America, so go to editing, as many of you as are willing, and as soon as you may, if you think you are ready." Frustration with Toronto led Shadd to move the publication of "The Provincial Freeman" to Chatham, close to both her former home in Windsor, and to where her parents and other relatives had settled in North Buxton. William Newman remained editor while Isaac Shadd took over as publisher, and Mary Ann, from behind the scenes, handled much of the daily work. In 1856, Mary Ann Shadd married Thomas Cary, a barber who lived in Toronto, who had also been involved with "The Provincial Freeman," and who had three children from a previous marriage. Mary Ann and Thomas had two children together, a girl named Sarah and a boy named Linton. For most of their marriage, Shadd Cary lived in Chatham, while Thomas remained in Toronto, although they traveled frequently between the residences. Running a financially successful newspaper was never an easy task. And Shadd Cary traveled widely in both Canada and in the United States, at great personal risk to lecture and to increase the subscriptions to the paper. By 1857, the financial situation of "The Provincial Freeman" was too precarious and it ceased publication for a time. Shadd Cary and her brother Isaac worked valiantly to keep the paper going. And by June of 1858, they were again publishing at least twice a month. But by mid 1860, it had ceased publication for good. After Thomas Cary died in 1860, Shadd Cary's main income source was working with an integrated Chatham school, run by her sister- in- law, Amelia Freeman Shadd. Shadd Cary was the principal fundraiser for the school. In 1863, Shadd Cary's friend, Martin Delany, convinced her to work as a recruitment officer to enlist Black soldiers for the Union Army.
After the war, Shadd Cary moved to Washington, DC, where she taught in the public schools for 15 years and served as a principal for two years. She enrolled In the law program at Howard University. In 1883, at age 60, she became only the second African American woman in the United States to earn a law degree. Shadd Cary continued to write and lecture, promoting racial and gender equality, and she was important to the women's suffrage movement. In 1875, Shadd Cary signed a petition claiming a woman's legal right to vote. She was one of 600 signers, and the petition was presented to the House Judiciary Committee. She joined the National Women's Suffrage Association and delivered an address to their convention in 1878. Later, she founded the Colored Women's Progressive Franchise Association to encourage Black women to fight for suffrage and equal rights. On June 5, 1893, Mary Ann Shad Cary died in Washington, DC. She was buried at the Colombian Harmony Cemetery. To help us understand more about her remarkable life, I'm joined now by Dr. Jane Rhodes and Dr. Kristin Moriah. Dr. Rhodes is professor of Black Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and author of the book, "Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century." Dr. Moriah is assistant professor of African American Literary Studies at Queen's University, and is a visiting fellow at the Center for Black Digital Research at Penn State, where her projects include digitizing Mary Shadd Cary's papers. Jane and Kristen, welcome. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 12:03
Delighted to be here. Thanks.
Kelly Therese Pollock 12:06
So I am super excited to learn about Mary Ann Shadd Carry. As with many of the topics on this podcast, I'm embarrassed that I did not know about her before, and I'm glad that I that I have the chance now. I wanted to start by asking each of you how you got to know about her, how you got interested in her. Jane, I know that that you've been interested in Mary Ann Shadd Cary for a while, wrote a book on her quite a while ago now. So could you tell us just a little bit about how that project started?
Dr. Jane Rhodes 12:37
Well, it is a long story. I'll try and do the condensed version, because Mary Ann Shadd Cary has been a central part of my life for about three years, quite frankly. So she was my dissertation topic. And the way that I came to her was that before I went to graduate school and became an academic I was a journalist. So I was a young Black woman newspaper reporter. And I was seeking sort of foremothers, right, and role models, and there weren't any. There were literally none written about except perhaps Ida B. Wells, and there was very little about her. And I was doing an interview with the late Manning Marable, a great scholar of Black history. And I told him this and he said to me, "You know, you ought to find out about Mary Ann Shadd Cary." And I was like, "What, who she, what is that?" And I dug around, and the only thing I could find about her at the time, this was in the 1990s, was, a couple of pages about her in a book called, "Black Women in America" by a historian named Gerda Lerner. And it's sort of a collection of stories of famous Black women. So that sort of sparked my interest. I left journalism, I went to graduate school. And I really had in the back of my mind from the beginning that I wanted to write about her. And then I started the research. I did my dissertation. After the dissertation was done, I went back and did a lot more research, because I wanted to flesh out the broad contours of her life, not only her journalism career. And so yeah, that's how she and I became intimately involved.
Kelly Therese Pollock 14:26
Yeah, I love that. And how about you, Kristin, what, what was your sort of introduction to Mary Ann Shadd Cary?
Dr. Kristin Moriah 14:33
You know, I proposed an essay for a special issue of theater research in Canada about a concert that was given for Mary Ann Shadd Cary, by Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield. And the paper was accepted, so I had to start doing a really deep dive. And at the same time, I was also I'm sort of newly connected to the Center for Black Digital Research, and so I had the resources to really think about Mary Ann Shadd Cary in depth. But I was also trying to incorporate Mary Ann Shadd Cary into my teaching, when I was new to the institution that I currently teach at. And I really realized that for a lot of my students, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was totally new, even though we have amazing work that has been produced by people like Jane Rhodes, and Rinaldo Walcott, it still hadn't made it into the curriculum by and large. So, you know, it was an opportunity for me to include Mary Ann Shadd Cary in my teaching, and also to think about her impact in terms of Black feminist performance and Black woman in a sort of a larger public sphere in the 19th century.
Kelly Therese Pollock 15:36
Yeah. And so the the question that comes up frequently on this podcast is, you know, why don't more people know? You know, obviously, there are people who do know about Mary Ann Shadd Cary, had been doing work for some time, like, you, Jane, but this isn't a sort of, you know, household name. Maybe like, I don't know if Ida B. Wells is in the broader spectrum. I certainly know, you know, have heard her name a lot. So, you know, why, why is it and it's not for lack of publications on her part. It's not for, you know, having lost her writing or something, you know, that is still out there. So what, what is it about her or her life, that despite her huge number of accomplishments, we just don't hear more, than that it isn't a larger part of sort of everyday conversation?
Dr. Jane Rhodes 16:23
Well, I mean, there are a lot of reasons, I think the critical one is that, really, before the end of the 20th century, perhaps the 1980s or the 1990s, there was very little written history about Black women in general, okay, even more, more famous, arguably more famous, more accomplished than Mary Ann Shadd Cary. There was a general notion that Black women hadn't accomplished very much. And even when there was recognition that Black women had accomplished something, and had a history that was worth noting, it was difficult often to find the records of those. And so it really wasn't until really the 1980s, the 1990s, when a small group of quite dogged scholars and journalists, and amateur historians just started working on that project. And it's still going on today. I mean, we're still every day, every week excavating amazing people like Mary Ann Shadd Cary. So, you know, I think that that is a broad part of the challenge in telling these stories.
Dr. Kristin Moriah 17:39
Yeah, I mean, I really love the idea that Jane outlines in her introduction to Mary Ann Shadd Cary, her biography of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, right that this material is out there. But there are really structural reasons, right that more people don't know about Mary Ann Shadd Cary. And in fact, there were groups of people in Chatham in southern Ontario, who really cling to the notion of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who are proud of her, and who have been, you know, really pushing for a greater civic recognition of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. And it's thanks to them that we have, you know, a couple of public schools and streets named after her in southern Ontario. But there's still a resistance to incorporating that history into broader histories of Canada. Right, there's still this notion that she wasn't really Canadian, that the Black community that was here in the 19th century, was very small, that they weren't really Canadian, right, that they were sort of outliers. And so I think that there's still room to really push forth with this idea, right, that she really did make a powerful impact both in Canada and the US.
Kelly Therese Pollock 18:47
Yeah, so maybe she's a person kind of both out of place that, you know, sort of Americans are like, "Well, her major work was in Canada," and Canadians are like, "Well, she's American," but out of time too, sort of before some of the movements. She's really sort of ahead of her time, in a lot of ways. Did you find that Jane, as you were sort of researching her looking at her work, that it was hard to sort of connect her to things that people are sort of writing about, like movements or places that sort of would would anchor her a little bit?
Dr. Jane Rhodes 19:17
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, in general, you know, people in the US and I think probably also in Canada are pretty presentist. You know, we don't like to go that far back. So when you go to the 19th century, for example, or the turn of the 20th century, it has to be really significant in various traditional terms, right. And so she doesn't necessarily fit those traditions. One of the terms that's used "Is a woman worthy? and what makes a woman worthy?" And I think also, she was, you know, she was an activist and she was radical and she sort of pushed against conventions. So you know, she irritated lots of different kinds of people, you know, and so, often folks like that don't get sort of recognized and get celebrated in conventional ways. But I think a lot of it is also the record. She she does leave record, but it's not in the obvious places, you know. It's not necessarily in, you know, sort of public records. So that, you know, public officials, for example, are enshrined in certain kinds of documents. And, you know, the average people and people outside of that domain aren't found there.
Kelly Therese Pollock 20:36
Yeah, Kristin, could you talk a little bit about the the work to digitize these records so that they are sort of in a in a more accessible format in a place that people can find her and can really experience her?
Dr. Kristin Moriah 20:49
Absolutely. And I think that, you know, if we're interested in thinking about, you know, Mary Ann Shadd Cary's radical feminism, that's such an important place to look. I mean, I love reading "The Provincial Freeman," because on the one hand, it's just funny, it's hilarious. So you'll have articles warning people who are newly immigrated to Canada like not to throw snowballs, because it could be dangerous, it could be ice. You can injure the person, right, who gets hit by a snowball, but also really insisting that it's important to educate your girls, right, just as much as it is to educate your sons, right. And this was so outstanding and striking, even then. You know, part of the work that I'm doing right now with the Center for Black Digital Research, involves digitizing the material that is currently held at Archives Ontario. And, you know, Jane writes about this extensively in her biography, but it's still basically on microfilm. And it's largely illegible, and not really accessible, right to scholars who can't travel to the archives, right and sit there for hours on end, right. And so, part of bringing Mary Ann Shadd Cary to the world and really helping others learn more about her and her legacy involves having this mass transcription project, right, which we hope will take place on February 14, in 2023, and 2023, will be the 200th anniversary of Mary Ann Shadd Cary's birth. February 14 is also Frederick Douglass' birthday. So it's the convergence of two really important days for the Center of Black Digital Research. And we hope that by placing these materials in the public, and gathering people together to help transcribe this material will begin this process of sort of making these records more accessible for the wider public.
Kelly Therese Pollock 22:32
Yeah, especially in the time of covid. I think we've seen you know, with shutdowns of archives and stuff, how important it is to get as much of this digitized as possible. So I want to ask a little bit about the Fugitive Slave Act in the US. So this was in 1850. And it was hugely influential certainly in Mary Ann Shadd Cary's life, you know, is that sort of a momentous decision that she makes to move, but obviously, is is hugely important in the lives of all African Americans. So I wonder if we could talk about that moment a little bit and what it means in American history and what it means specifically for Mary Ann Shadd Cary.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 23:12
It is a really pivotal moment, because historians sort of mark 1850 as being the the moment in which the sort of entire political arc of the country is moving towards the Civil War, essentially. But, you know, the, the Fugitive Slave Act, has made whatever mobility Black people have virtually impossible. You know, about 10% of the Black American population at this time is freeborn, or they've emancipated themselves in some way or have been emancipated. And those folks have a sort of nominal freedom, but they do, they are sort of the foundation, the bulwark of the Black abolitionist movement, right. So they're the ones that are holding the conventions, that are publishing the newspapers, that are circulating the speeches, that are raising the money, who are, you know, sort of conducting the Underground Railroad; that is the sort of foundation of the Black abolitionist movement. And then you have this law that comes along, that makes it even more difficult for those individuals to be mobile, to do that work, and is incredibly threatening to the whole project of trying to free slaves. So it's that constant concept and context that really propels many people like Mary Ann Shadd Cary to think about an alternative, something that's unthinkable, you know. This is a period in history where people didn't easily emigrate anywhere, right, much less of, you know, leaving the United States and go to Canada. And one thing that people don't often remember is that Black people, even though they are oppressed, they're disenfranchised, their their bodies are owned, they are brutalized, they still have a very close tie and identity as Americans. And so and you know, as Frederick Douglass would argue, during this period, this is our country, and we built it, you know, and we are going to stake a claim to it. So, you know, MaryAnn is a part of a small movement of Black Americans who take a different stance, and they say, "America is hopeless. We can do better work if we go to Canada and demonstrate that Black people can thrive and be successful. We can repudiate slavery and the slave trade and racial segregation." So there's a lot of meaning in it. And, but she's taken very much taking a minority position within the Black abolitionist movement, and, and a remarkable one, given that she's a single young woman.
Dr. Kristin Moriah 26:01
One thing I would say to pick up on that is that, you know, when we read the plea for immigration, even though she is firmly right, sort of making a stance that we need to like, cast our lot in with a British Empire, she also calls on people's knowledge of the United States, or just as you know, if you can make it in like Northern Ohio, Ohio, and you can farm there, you can also be a successful farmer in southern Ontario, right. The skills that you have, the skills that allow you to thrive, right in the United States will also make you really a prosperous farmer, right, and a good citizen in Canada.
Kelly Therese Pollock 26:38
Yeah, and she makes such a different argument, even, you know, versus other immigrationists of the time who are saying, "We should go to Latin America, or, you know, we should go to Haiti or maybe Africa." You know, this is a very different argument that she's making. One of the things that's striking is, how much even among people who have the same basic idea at the time of what to do, they have such such strong disagreements about how to how to do that even the people who want to go to Canada, you know, fighting amongst themselves about how the best way is to do that.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 27:13
Absolutely. I mean, this is a point that I try to convey to my students every semester, which is that Black people are not a monolith, anymore than any other group are. And they certainly weren't in the 19th century, and there was a vast array of positions and ideas. You know, there was a, you know, a consensus that people wanted to escape their enslavement and escape a system of discrimination. But there were a myriad of strategies that people were trying in order to accomplish that. And I think Mary Ann Shadd Cary was very astute politically. She understood that having a safe haven in Canada for Blacks where they could create sort of autonomous and independent communities and institutions, conveyed a very powerful political statement that it repudiated all the mythologies of blackness: that Black people couldn't do that, that they didn't have the intellect, that they were uncivilized, while Mary Ann Shadd. Cary is saying, "Excuse me, here we are. And you know, Canada's quite a fine place. And we're doing quite well."
Kelly Therese Pollock 28:28
Yeah. So we, we've mentioned a few times what sort of, she doesn't just try to make nice. She's sort of very fearless in her rhetoric, that she's very outspoken. So can we talk about that a little bit? And that, what that meant, then for her to be like that? What what it is maybe about her background, that can explain a little bit about why she was the way that she was? And what sort of space this then opened up for other Black women who followed her?
Dr. Kristin Moriah 29:03
Yeah, I mean, from my present day perspective, you know, I'm often struck by the intense backlash in the press, both the Black press and the mainstream press, against Mary Ann Shadd Cary at those moments when she insisted on speaking in public. And so she wanted to be an active participant in the Colored Conventions. And she insisted on her right to take the stage in those spaces. And people got, you know, pretty nasty with her, they were very petty. So you're reading these, you know, reports about her speeches, and they comment on the tone of her voice, um, not just what she was saying. Right. But even the tone of her voice, right. She sounds masculine to them. Right. And it's not even about what she's saying. It's really just about the fact that she had the audacity to to stand up and speak right in front of this group of men.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 29:51
Yeah, yeah. That's really well put Kristin. You know, the gender conventions of the mid 19th century were that women were supposed to stay in the so called sort of domestic sphere. Right? And, and Black Americans had this, you know, very contradictory impulse. The great scholar James Oliver Horton wrote extensively about this, you know, this idea that, you know, Black women have to be part of the sort of freedom struggle on the one hand; but they also need to conform to these kind of domestic ideals. They shouldn't speak up, they shouldn't be critical, you know, they should, you know, sort of practice kinds of deportment. We see this 100 years later. You know, it struck me that, you know, during, like, the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 70s, in the Civil Rights Movement, we saw similar kinds of contradictions. And it took, you know, sort of confident, and ambitious women to contradict that, and to follow their destiny and to carry out their political project.
Kelly Therese Pollock 31:02
Yeah, it's interesting that even while she is, is not really backing down ever, she is at the same time, sort of understanding those gender dynamics, when she puts together The Provincial Freeman and says, "Yeah, this guy is in charge, really. It's not me. It's not a woman," while at the same time, she's, you know, really very much the one running the show.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 31:23
Yeah, she was aware of it. By then she, she, I'm sure experienced so much sort of opposition and backlash that, you know, again, she always had to be strategic, right. And that was a strategic move, you know. She could run the paper, and she can put a guy's name on the masthead, and no one will know the difference. And of course, we know that eventually people do figure it out, and she gives up the charade. But this is the way Black women and women in general, many of the women's suffrage activist had to do the same thing, you either had to have the protection of a husband, who was supportive of your enterprise. If you were single and independent, then you had to really circumvent his very circuitous route to have a public voice.
Kelly Therese Pollock 32:12
Yeah. And can we talk some about about her marriage and her kids? You know, I think when when I look at her story, I think at certain points, like, "She doesn't strike me much as a mother." And I think "Okay, no, I think that because it's the 19th century." You know, I wouldn't think that a woman who was, you know, a CEO, or something in the 21st century, wasn't much of a mother. So, you know, I, you know, it, I think that the marriage is the same way that a 21st century marriage where they were living in opposite places, and traveling back and forth, and stuff wouldn't strike us as that odd in a way that it does in the 19th century. But you know, from from everything I can tell, they do seem to have very much loved each other. It wasn't sort of a marriage for political reasons or anything.
Dr. Kristin Moriah 32:56
Well, if I can plug the Archives Ontario funds, again, um, I would say that that's one of the things that really fascinated me about that collection of paper, right, is that there is correspondence actually, between Mary Ann Shadd Cary and her husband. But it is also one of the things that frustrates me about that bit of research, that they're not quite legible. So I'm hoping that part of this collaboration and the mass transcription project that's going to happen in 2023, will actually allow us to have a greater insight into those kinds of relationships.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 33:26
Yeah, yeah. I mean, Kelly, I think you you raise a really fascinating point, which is, I think we have this kind of mythology, you know, this imagery of 19th century marriages, when, you know, the reality is, they probably often transcended those kinds of myths, and that there was a lot more mobility when necessary, and a lot more independence of women than we know. And that's why stories like this are so important. Mary Ann Shadd Cary's story is a vital story. But it also tells us a lot about how many, many women sort of navigated the world during that time. Mary Ann traveled all over, she had small children. She crossed the border, she came, she did speaking engagements, you know, she went to meetings and so forth. And while that was unusual, it certainly was probably more usual than we imagine or understand.
Kelly Therese Pollock 34:25
Yeah, I think the the interesting thing, too, is having such a big supportive family seems to have been obviously was so important in the paper, but I assumed must have also been important in sort of raising the kids and you know, that, that you have this, this family network that that can help, you know, take care of the kids while you're on the road, that sort of thing. That would have been helpful.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 34:48
Yeah, absolutely. They had a I mean, there were 12 Shadd siblings, and Mary Ann was the oldest. So I often thought as I was, you know, sort of working on this project that she played a significant role in raising her siblings. And then probably later on, she turned to them and said, "Okay, it's your turn now to help me raise my kids." So absolutely.
Kelly Therese Pollock 35:10
Yeah. So Kristin, you have mentioned that the 200th anniversary of her birth is coming up and that there's the transcription project. What are some of the other things that are going on to help celebrate her life as we near the 200th anniversary of her birth?
Dr. Kristin Moriah 35:27
Well, this fall, we held a small symposium, and we featured a lot of new research about Mary Ann Shadd Cary and her life. And we're hoping that 2023 will also allow us to publish this new set of research into Mary Ann Shadd Cary and her work. I know that my colleagues at Penn State are also working closely with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project to coordinate a mural based in Delaware. Right, and that also celebrates Mary Ann Shadd Cary. I'm hoping for similar work in Ontario. And so, you know, it's nice to think about this renaissance of Mary Ann Shadd Cary on new research that's coming forth, but also new cultural work, that really publicly commemorates her impact.
Kelly Therese Pollock 36:10
I think we could probably a talk about her, all day. But in lieu of that, I think that people should, should follow along all of these things. And check out the the symposium from last fall the several of the panels from that are on YouTube, and can be checked out, and Jane, can you let people know how to get your book?
Dr. Jane Rhodes 36:31
Yes, the book is published by Indiana University Press. So you can go to IU Press and find the book. And we're hoping to bring out a second edition, which will be really exciting to to tie into the 200th birthday anniversary.
Kelly Therese Pollock 36:52
Excellent. It's a great read. It's just a she's such a fascinating story. And you got into so much of the archives and the research and are really able to sort of pull it those strands of her life.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 37:06
Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Kelly Therese Pollock 37:08
So is there anything else that either of you would like to make sure we talk about? I mean, we didn't even touch certain parts of her life because of time. But is there anything you'd really especially like to make sure we talked about?
Dr. Jane Rhodes 37:19
I'd just like to highlight, which goes back to the reason why I started this in the first place, the the active role that women, Black women have played as journalists, as as creators of media. Because I think there's a sense until quite recently that Black women weren't active in this sphere, that they didn't have much control. But there actually is a wonderful history, and I think Mary Ann Shadd Cary really attests to: it takes perseverance, it takes creativity, it takes brashness, and maybe a little arrogance, but it played a really vital role. It helped in building Black communities in Canada, it really probably saved the lives of hundreds, if not 1000s of people who were emigrated. And it helped forge a political movement. So that's not nothing, you know, in terms of the role of media and the press, and I hope that that inspires young people to continue to do that work.
Dr. Kristin Moriah 38:28
I mean, you know, one of the things that has always struck me is that Mary Ann Shadd Cary, is really the perfect kind of figure to bring together scholars from both the US and Canada. Right. And so much of the things that remain fascinating about her right are the way that she just sort of she really lived along the border line, right, and that she straddled both worlds, and is continually sort of reinventing what it means to sort of live on either side of those borders. I mean, she's such an enigmatic figure. I think that she's, she's endlessly fascinating. And I really hope that 2023 allows other people to sort of dive into her legacy in new ways.
Kelly Therese Pollock 39:04
I love that. So thank you both Jane and Kristin, for speaking with me, for all of the work that you've done. I'm so very excited to have learned about Mary Ann Shadd Cary, and I'm really looking forward to the the ongoing celebrations and seeing the the digital project.
Dr. Jane Rhodes 39:23
Thanks so much for the invitation. Yes, this was fun.
Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode @UnsungHistorypodcast.com. To the best of our knowledge, all audio and images used by Unsung History are in the public domain or our used with permission. You can find us on Twitter, or Instagram @Unsung__History, or on Facebook @UnsungHistorypodcast. To contact us with questions or episode suggestions, please email Kelly@UnsungHistorypodcast.com. If you enjoyed this podcast please rate and review and tell your friends.
I am the co-editor of Adrienne Rich: Teaching at CUNY, 1968-1974 (Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, 2014). My critical work can be found in American Quarterly, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Theatre Journal, and Understanding Blackness Through Performance (eds. Anne Cremieux, Xavier Lemoine and Jean-Paul Rocchi, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
My research employs a multidisciplinary approach to explore the impact of black performance in transnational settings. This work reveals the mutually constitutive nature of black performance to the process of identity formation and nation building in the modern era. In the process, it demonstrates how African American artists evaded the confines of the American stage and shines new light on the global impact of their cultural contributions.
By focusing on the material products of transnational black performance, including sonic ephemera and black geographies, my research contributes to the growing body of work on the African Diaspora within Europe. I am especially interested in studying the representations of blackness that circulated between the United States and Germany in the late nineteenth century. More specifically, I examine how visual representations of blackness and black performance in Germany reinscribed colonial authority while playing a critical role in the development of African American identity in the United States. In this way, I chart the long reach of American popular culture from the 1890s to the beginning of World War I.
My manuscript, Dark Stars of the Evening: Performing African American Citizenship and Identity in Germany, 1890- 1920 demonstrates that black performers in Germany developed wide networks in the performance world as they sought artistic opportunities beyond the racist circumscription of the American popular stage. Their performances became emblematic of modernity, globalization, and imperial might for German audiences at the turn of the century. African American-styled blackness contributed to economic development in Berlin while allowing African American performers to assert themselves on the global stage.
Rhodes is trained as a mass media historian with a specialization in African American history and culture. She focuses on the study of race, gender, and mass media; the history of the black press; media and social movements; and African American women’s history. She is particularly interested in how aggrieved communities have used print culture, film, electronic media, music, and other expressive cultures as modes of resistance and empowerment. Her work also explores the gender politics of African American communities and the experiences of transnational black subjects.
Rhodes’ first book Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century (Indiana University Press, 1998), was named the best book in mass communication history by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. A second edition is in development. Her second book, Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon is now in its second edition (University of Illinois Press, 2017). Rhodes has held a Radcliffe fellowship and visiting fellowships at the University of Cambridge and the University of Bristol in the U.K. These were in support of her current project, a biography of a black American expatriate and psychoanalyst Transatlantic Blackness in the Era of Jim Crow: The Life of Marie Battle Singer. Rhodes is also building on her long-standing interest in how persons of African descent use media to carve out spaces for political, intellectual, and cultural exchange with a book-in-progress, Rebel Media.