Toronto has a free printing workshop honouring North America’s first Black woman publisher

Visit Toronto Mackenzie House for free Mary Ann Shadd Cary printing workshops this month. (Courtesy: Heritage Toronto)

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first Black woman to publish, edit and run a newspaper in North America. 

To celebrate, Toronto’s Mackenzie House, home to the city’s Victorian era and its controversial first Mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie, is hosting a printing workshop called “Breaking the Editorial Ice” this month.

“Visitors get to print a copy of Mary Ann’s newspaper with their name typeset at the bottom, and also a bookmark with one of her famous quote about having broken the editorial ice and encouraging other women to follow her into publishing,” Danielle Urquhart, program officer at Mackenzie House Museum, told Now Toronto. 

Cary was a staple in the North American abolitionist movement. In her 20s, she penned her pamphlet “Hints to the Colored People of the North,” that encouraged free African-Africans to seek both physical and spiritual independence from the ideals of White America.

Read more: Five fearless Black women who left their mark in Canadian history

Cary began the weekly newspaper The Provincial Freeman in Windsor in 1853 and began publishing in Toronto in 1854 at 143 King St. East. The newspaper reported on news surrounding the Underground Railroad tracking escape attempts, legal challenges and conflicts against the slave trade. 

She used her platform to encourage free and captive African-Americans to seek refuge and start a new life in Upper Canada, before confederation in 1867. 

In A Plea for Emigration (1852), a response to the United States’ Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the law that allowed for slave owners to capture escaped slaves, she touched on agriculture, the state of the economy, progressing labour sector, job opportunities against racial discrimination and social life.

The Provincial Freeman ran until 1859 and in 1863 Cary left for the United States, where she worked as a recruiter for the Union Army, which helped fight the Confederate Army in the American Civil War.

Workshops are running until the end of February and are available for pre-registration here

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