Colored Conventions Teaching Questions for College/High School Honors Classes


“Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Herstory in the Colored Conventions”

Prepared by Samantha de Vera


  1. This exhibit offers a view of the many facets of Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s life—her work as an editor, anti-slavery activist, emigrationist, and Union Army recruiter. How does the chronological and geographical span of Shadd Cary’s life and work enrich our understanding of Black women’s activism in the nineteenth century?
  2. The section “Becoming a Delegate” shows the events in Shadd Cary’s life that eventually led to her contested delegacy at the 1855 National Convention in Philadelphia. What were the obstacles that she faced as a Black woman activist? What were the arguments delegates used in an attempt to deny her a seat among delegates? How would you contextualize these arguments, given that the women’s rights movement was gaining momentum at this time? 
  3. In 1850s, Shadd Cary traveled extensively as this visualization shows. What does Shadd Cary’s movement tell us about the activist network that animated Black movements in the nineteenth century? 
  4.   Shadd Cary’s activism shifted over time, especially after the Civil War. Although Shadd Cary was a staunch proponent of emigration, she later returned to the United States and worked as a recruiter for the Union Army.  Explain why Shadd Cary’s priorities changed. How does her actions and writings complicate/enrich our understanding of Black nationalism? 
  5.  How does this exhibit frame Shadd Cary’s contributions to women’s rights? Closely reading her writings, how did Shadd Cary advance the cause of Black women’s political and economic empowerment?


Click here for a printable copy of this set of teaching questions.