National Newspaper Awards Honors Black Journalist Trailblazer Mary Ann Shadd Cary | Lifestyles


A pioneering 19th-century black journalist honored with a National Newspaper Award in her name. The Mary Ann Shadd Cary Award for Columns will be presented for the first time when the 2021 winners are announced on May 6, 2022. It is the newspaper’s eighth national award to bear the name of a prominent journalist from the past.

Born in Wilmington, Del., In 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was raised by free black parents who were active in the struggle for the abolition of slavery. After the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, strengthening the ability of slave owners to recover formerly enslaved individuals, she moved to southwestern Ontario in the early 1850s and began to work 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 the full freedom of those who had been enslaved. The newspaper’s motto was “Autonomy is the real path to independence”. Black citizens have been urged to insist on fair treatment and to take legal action if other efforts fail.

Shadd Cary, who died in 1893, was not afraid to attack institutions or individuals she believed were involved in wrongdoing, especially against the black community, historian Jane Rhodes wrote in 1998.

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

The award named in honor of Shadd Cary is one of 22 to be presented on May 6, 2022 to honor the best Canadian journalism of 2021.

This is the latest in a number of initiatives undertaken by the National Newspaper Awards Board of Governors to make the competition more diverse and inclusive. These changes, which stem from a commitment announced at the awards ceremony last May, include:

• Reduced fees for freelance journalists entering the competition independently and journalists working for digital news organizations outside the traditional newspaper business.

• The addition of five new members of the Board of Directors who will bring perspectives that were previously lacking. This includes representatives from the Canadian Association of Black Journalists, Canadian Journalists of Color, Indigenous and LGBTQ2S + journalists.

• Take strong action to develop a pool of judges more representative of Canada’s diversity. A major awareness campaign this fall resulted in a much more diverse roster of judges than in the past.

• An awareness campaign to encourage all eligible media, both traditional newspapers and digital organizations, to submit the best work done by journalists from equity-seeking groups, including BIPOC and LGBTQ2S +.

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