Through The Provincial Freeman Mary Ann Shadd Cary presented herself to a wide array of audiences seeking to participate in Black organizing and the Colored Conventions. From this position Shadd Cary and her partners, editor Samuel Ringgold Ward and her brother Isaac Shadd, represented the conventions movement, its internal debates, and its relationship to other movements. Historian Martha Jones offers ways of looking at Shadd Cary’s journalist and editorial work that speaks to her power to shape the conventions without needing to see her named as a delegate to recognize it.[1] For example, Shadd Cary sometimes distances herself by using her initials, asterisks, or quoting others in order to convey her argument without embedding herself in controversy. Jim Casey’s research of the masking-effect that Shadd Cary’s asterisk created in database queries reveals the continued efficacy of her efforts to distance her person from the important yet dangerous messages she felt compelled to publish, like advocating for Black women’s rights or challenging powerful political activists.[2] The challenge of locating and presenting Shadd Cary’s voice on the topic of conventions (Colored Conventions among others) is ultimately a worthwhile effort because it offers counter-narratives to the official records produced by organizers, with critiques that reflect her position at the intersection of gender and racial minority identities. The visualization below offers a chronology and map of clippings from The Provincial Freeman that showcase the techniques used by the Black press.

 Explore this StoryMap visualization for Shadd Cary’s comments critiques of Colored Conventions and how this movement was in conversation with other political conventions.


[1] Jones, Martha. All Bound up Together: the Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900. Chapel Hill , NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2007, pp. 87-90.

[2] Casey, Jim. “Parsing the Special Characters of African American Print Culture: Mary Ann Shadd and the * Limits of Search.” Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print. Edited by Brigitte Fielder and Jonathan Senchyne, University of Wisconsin Press, 2019, pp. 109–28.



Provincial Freeman. “Our Free Colored Emigrants.” May 20, 1854. From Accessible Archives. (accessed Dec 10, 2020).

 Provincial Freeman. “Address of the Women’s Rights Convention.” May 6 1854. Accessible Archives. (accessed Dec 10, 2020).

Provincial Freeman. “The Nebraska Emigration Convention.” May 20, 1854. Accessible Archives. (accessed Dec 10, 2020).

Provincial Freeman. “Untitled.” October 14, 1854. From Accessible Archives. (accessed Dec 10, 2020).

Provincial Freeman. “Address To the Colored People of Canada.” Sept 8, 1855. Accessible Archives. (accessed Dec 10, 2020).

 Provincial Freeman. “The Cleveland Convention. Board of Publication.” Nov 25, 1856. Accessible Archives. (date accessed Dec 10, 2020).