Among the items in the Black Abolitionists digital archive are a few hand-written speeches. The words of the speaker always offer insight into a perspective of history that is only left to use through text records. Yet when you add the actual handwriting, it seems to offer a connection to the writer herself in a more personal way. This speech by Mary Ann Shadd Cary is a great example of this.
While Mary Shadd Cary was widely recognized as a force for change by her fellow abolitionists during her time, there are few who remember her name today. Back then, there were very few women abolitionists, and African American women abolitionists were extremely rare. Encyclopedia.com tells her story quite well. She was a teacher, a journalist, and “one of the best known and most prolific black writers of her generation.” Besides her tireless work against slavery and gender equality, she was also the first black woman to edit a newspaper (The Provincial Freeman — March 24, 1853, to September 20, 1857).
Handwritten materials from the 1800s can be difficult to decipher. This is especially true as the hard copy pages age. We have transcribed this digitized work as best we can, and we offer our translation of the writing next to the actual text in PDF form. This allows readers a fascinating glimpse into the author’s thought process, energy, and intense commitment to ending the horrors of slavery. It demonstrates in a unique way the dedication of this one determined woman to do all she could to help make this happen.
The image below is from the Mary Shadd Cary Papers archive held in Ontario, Canada. They have graciously given us permission to share this wonderful document with visitors to our digital archives. To read more of this speech, click here.