From Grit to Glory: Celebrating Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Toronto History Museums

October 14, 15 & 20, 2023

This October marks the Bicentennial celebration for Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper. Within the pages of The Provincial Freeman, she fought for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women while helping people who escaped enslavement adjust to life in Ontario. In Mary Ann’s words, she had “broken the editorial ice” and hoped her example would inspire more Black women to write and publish.

The City’s Toronto History Museums are offering free public events in October to celebrate Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s life, accomplishments and influences, connecting her inspiring legacy with Shadd family descendants, academics, journalists and the Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine.

Capacity is limited so please register early! To learn more, visit

October 14
St. Lawrence Hall (157 King Street East) | 2 to 5 p.m. | Registration Required

Celebration & Discussion
Join an afternoon of art, poetry and lively discussion in the ballroom of the historic St. Lawrence Hall – where Mary Ann Shadd Cary attended the North American Convention of Colored Freemen when she first visited Toronto in 1851.

Award-winning journalist and associate professor Nana Aba Duncan hosts panels and performances celebrating Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s ground-breaking achievements and legacy.

Special guests and panel speakers include:

  • Adeyemi Adegbesan, Artist
  • Randell Adjei, Poet Laureate of Ontario
  • Lillian Allen, Poet Laureate of Toronto
  • Nana Aba Duncan, journalist and Associate Professor, Carty Chair in Journalism, Diversity and Inclusion Studies at Carleton University
  • Allya Davidson, executive producer of CBC News’ The Fifth Estate
  • Rita Shelton Deverell, Chancellor, independent scholar, author and media artist
  • Kristin Moriah, Assistant Professor of English at Queen’s University
  • Shannon Prince, Curator of the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum
  • Ed and Maxine Robbins, retired educators who donated original records of Mary Ann Shadd Cary to the Archives of Ontario
  • Rosemary Sadlier, author and Past President of the Ontario Black History Society
  • Adrienne Shadd, curator and author of The Underground Railway and The Journey from Tollgate to Parkway
  • Rinaldo Walcott, author and Professor and Chair of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo

Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s newspaper The Provincial Freeman

October 15
Mackenzie House (82 Bond Street)

Talk and Neighbourhood Tour: Tracing Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s footsteps in mid-19th century Black Toronto | 1 to 3 p.m. | Registration Required
Join Natasha Henry-Dixon, award-winning author and assistant professor of African Canadian History at York University, to explore the life and times of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Learn about her life in Toronto in the mid-1850s within a vibrant, growing Black community in an emerging city centre, her activism and her writings. The talk at Mackenzie House is followed by a short neighbourhood tour.

Printing Activities | 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Free Drop-in
Stop by the museum’s recreated printshop to view printing demonstrations and print your own copy of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s newspaper, the Provincial Freeman.

October 20
Todmorden Mills, Papermill Theatre (67 Pottery Road)

Film Screening of “Steadfast: The Messenger and the Message” & Audience Q&A | 7 to 9:30 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm) | Pre-registration is required
The Honourable Dr. Jean Augustine is a Canadian icon who broke barriers and fought for social justice. Be inspired by this documentary film capturing Dr. Augustine’s journey from her humble beginnings in Grenada, West Indies, to her numerous achievements and accolades after immigrating to Canada in 1960. Q&A session with Dr. Jean Augustine and Director Fahim Ali follows the film.

Toronto History Museums

Toronto History Museums are a group of 10 museums owned and operated by the City of Toronto with the mission to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit and enhance the understanding of Toronto’s diverse stories through engaging and exciting experiences and different perspectives.

Toronto History Museums include Colborne Lodge, Fort York National Historic Site, Gibson House Museum, Mackenzie House, Market Gallery, Montgomery’s Inn, Scarborough Museum, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills and Zion Schoolhouse. Learn more at

General admission to all 10 Toronto History Museums is free.


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