Blog Post:19th and Early 20th Century Black Women in Canada
· Reading: Chapter #4: Black Women and Work in 19th Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb
Within the text, “Black Women and Work in 19th Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb”, Afua Cooper explores the life of abolitionist activist and teacher, Mary Bibb. Mary Bibb, along with her husband Henry, migrated from Boston to Sandwich Canada West as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act, which granted American slave holders from the south to travel North to recapture escaped slaves, resulted in a mass exodus to Canada. Many of these people already established in the north with forms of education, trades, and they were leaving economic stability.
Bibb’s First School & Entrepreneurial Spirit
Within Black communities in Canada, there existed an entrepreneurial spirit that pushed Mary Bibb, and her husband Henry to initiate Black empowerment projects. As Henry founded a newspaper titled “The Voice of the Fugitive”, Mary opened a school in her region to provide Black children with access to education.
In the same year, provincial legislature passed an act that promoted segregated schooling. This act legalized the creation of Black academic institutions, which was used as a justification by White Canadians to bar Black students from attending their schools.
“For the many years that Mary Bibb taught in Canada she was acutely aware that the powers-that-be meant for Blacks to be placed firmly at the bottom of society’s ladder. Inferior education was one way to ensure this outcome.”
// Afua Cooper, pg. 122
Although Bibb was dedicated in her efforts to combat state-sanctioned racism through education, she was forced to resign from her position shortly after a year. According to Cooper, the school was unsustainable for 2 reasons. Firstly, parental poverty within the region made it difficult for adults to invest in these institutions. As a result, Bibb was not compensated for her efforts. Secondly, the lack of governmental financial support tied with this parental poverty made the schools collapse inevitable.
Bibb’s Second School
In 1852, Bibb moved to Windsor and once again, founded a school for her community members. This school was successful because of Bibb’s determination to have a private institution independent of the government.
Discussion Question: In what ways can education be used as both a tool of marginalization and liberation for Black Canadians, and specifically Black Canadian women?
Notably, Bibb aspired for her second school to be open to all “irrespective of colour”. In her last spring term in 1855, there were 46 pupils, 7 of which were White students. Let’s consider Afro-centric Alternative Schools in Toronto!
Discussion: After acknowledging Canada’s history of excluding Blacks from academia through legislation, are Afro-centric schools helpful/necessary to combat anti-black racism? What do you think about Afro-centric schools? Are they still useful institutions?
Other Black Empowerment projects in Windsor:
· Bibb assisted in local religious services
§ Sunday school was the only opportunity for many blacks to receive education in Essex county
· Helped to establish Windsor anti-slavery society
Cooper notes that Bibb was influential in aiding in the settlement of Black ‘refugees’ in Canada. This is interesting because Cooper evokes the language of ‘refugee’, which I would, not deemed these migrants prior to reading the text.
Discussion: What links can we make between the experiences/treatments of Black migrants/refugees in Canada in the19th century and current Black refugees in Canada?
Jane Rhodes Reading: Mary Ann Shadd Cary
· First Black female publisher in North America
§ Edited ‘Provincial Freeman 1853”
· First female publisher in Canada
· 1850 – Moved to Buxton due to Fugitive Slave Act