Robert Gordon, Marium Tolson-Murtty, and Donna Mayne pulling cloth off statue.UWindsor president Robert Gordon, director of anti-racism and organizational change Marium Tolson-Murtty, and sculptor Donna Mayne unveil the statue of Mary Ann Shadd Cary during a ceremony Thursday.

Statue to honour legacy of pioneering abolitionist

A statue of trailblazing abolitionist and newspaper publisher Mary Ann Shadd Cary will honour her legacy for generations to come, UWindsor president Robert Gordon said Thursday at a ceremony to unveil the artwork on the University’s downtown campus.

Conceived and created by Windsor artist Donna Mayne (BA 1982), the bronze sculpture stands at the corner of Chatham and Ferry streets on the grounds of Windsor Hall, a former home of the Windsor Star.

“This project has been in the works for several years now,” Dr. Gordon said. “The University of Windsor is so proud to honour Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s legacy for generations to come as we work towards establishing a more safe, just, and equitable campus community — a truly inclusive future for the University begins with our actions today.”

Born in Wilmington, Delaware and arriving in Upper Canada in 1851, Shadd Cary was a teacher and prominent activist in Underground Railroad communities. In 1853, she published the first edition of The Provincial Freeman, a newspaper that advocated equality, integration, and self-reliance for Black people in Canada and the United States. Shadd Cary was the first woman in Canada and the first Black woman in North America to establish a newspaper.

Clinton Beckford, UWindsor vice-president of equity, diversity, and inclusion, said she embodied the reality of exceptionalism, calling Shadd Cary “a uniquely gifted and dedicated character who in her lifetime was an anti-slavery activist, journalist, publisher, teacher, and lawyer.”

“Her establishment of a newspaper was only one of a string of watershed moments and accomplishments,” said Dr. Beckford. “I join our community today in recognizing and celebrating her pioneering life and its indelible impact on Black lives today.”

Irene Moore Davis (BA 1993), president of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society and a Shadd family descendant, told the crowd assembled for Thursday’s ceremony that Shadd Cary is one of the most fascinating figures ever to have called Windsor home.

“It’s certainly my hope that this sculpture will help shine a light on this trailblazer, and that its placement at the downtown campus will make it easy for the public to access,” she said.

Moore Davis read an excerpt from a letter, written by Shadd Cary to her brother Isaac in 1851 on the eve of her journey from Toronto to Sandwich.

“I have been here more than a week and like Canada, do not feel prejudice,” she wrote, encouraging him to come to follow her example and move north. Find a digital copy of the letter in the Archives of Ontario.

Thursday’s ceremony also included presentations by Shannon Prince, curator of the Buxton Historic Site and also a Shadd family descendant; Willow Key, a master’s student of history; former City of Windsor poet laureate Mary Ann Mulhern (BA 1976, MEd 1984); and actor and playwright Leslie McCurdy, who depicts Shadd in her one-woman show Things My Fore-Sisters Saw.