National Newspaper Awards to name an award after pioneering Black journalist Mary Ann Shadd Cary

  • National Newspaper Awards to name an award after pioneering Black journalist
  • Mary Ann Shadd Cary award for Columns will be presented for the first time next May
  • Other initiatives to make the competition more diverse and inclusive are under way

TORONTODec. 15, 2021 – A pioneering Black journalist of the 19th century is being honoured by having a National Newspaper Award named after her.

The Mary Ann Shadd Cary Award for Columns will be presented for the first time when 2021 winners are announced on May 6, 2022. This is the eighth National Newspaper Award to be named after an important journalist of the past.

Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1823, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was raised by free Black parents who were active in the fight to abolish slavery. After the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, bolstering slave owners’ ability to recapture formerly enslaved individuals, she relocated to southwestern Ontario in the early 1850s, and began working 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 full freedom for those who had been enslaved. The paper’s motto was “Self-reliance is the true road to independence.” Black citizens were advised to insist on fair treatment, and to take legal action if other efforts failed.

Shadd Cary, who died in 1893, was not afraid to attack institutions or individuals she believed were engaged in wrongdoing, particularly against the Black community, historical scholar Jane Rhodes wrote in 1998.

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

The award named after Shadd Cary is among 22 that will be presented May 6, 2022, to honour the best Canadian journalism of 2021.

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

  • Reduced fees for freelance journalists who enter the competition independently, and journalists who work for digital news organizations, outside the traditional realm of newspapers.
  • The addition of five new Board members who will bring perspectives that were missing previously. This includes representatives of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists, Canadian Journalists of Colour, Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ journalists.
  • Taking aggressive steps to develop a pool of judges that is more representative of Canada’s diversity. A major outreach campaign this fall has resulted in a list of judges that is far more diverse than in the past.
  • An outreach campaign aimed at encouraging all eligible news outlets, from both the traditional newspaper realm and digital organizations, to submit the best work done by journalists from equity-seeking groups, including BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+.

The National Newspaper Awards are open to daily newspapers, news agencies and online news sites. The awards were established by the Toronto Press Club in 1949 to encourage excellence and reward achievement in daily newspaper work in Canada. The awards program has been owned and operated by the Canadian Daily Newspaper Awards Programme Administration Corp. since 1989.