National Newspaper Awards names award after pioneering Black journalist Mary Ann Shadd Cary

A pioneering Black journalist of the 19th century is being honoured by having a National Newspaper Award named after her.

The Mary Ann Shadd Cary Award for Columns will be presented for the first time when 2021 winners are announced on May 6, 2022. This is the eighth National Newspaper Award to be named after an important journalist of the past.

Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was raised by free Black parents who were active in the fight to abolish slavery. After the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, bolstering slave owners’ ability to recapture formerly enslaved individuals, she relocated to southwestern Ontario in the early 1850s, and began working to provide education and support to the growing population of freedom seekers.

Three years later, she founded the Provincial Freeman, a newspaper advocating the abolition of slavery and full freedom for those who had been enslaved. The paper’s motto was “Self-reliance is the true road to independence.” Black citizens were advised to insist on fair treatment, and to take legal action if other efforts failed.

Shadd Cary, who died in 1893, was not afraid to attack institutions or individuals she believed were engaged in wrongdoing, particularly against the Black community, historical scholar Jane Rhodes wrote in 1998.

The Freeman circulated in southern Ontario, and Shadd Cary personally sold some copies across the border before the newspaper became financially unsustainable and ceased publication by 1860.

The award named after Shadd Cary is among 22 that will be presented May 6, 2022, to honour the best Canadian journalism of 2021.

You can read more about this year’s competition by clicking here.