“Mary Ann Shadd Revisited: Echoes from an Old House” is going to be launched on the Heritage Toronto website as a part of their programming for International Women’s Day on Tuesday March 8. The documentary was the central component of Smith’s major research paper for her MA in Public History.

The film is about a collection of letters to and from African American abolitionist Mary Ann Shadd between 1851 and 1863 – years that she lived in Canada. The letters were left in her house when she returned to the U.S.A. and eventually forgotten. They were accidentally rediscovered in 1974 by the then owners of the house, after it had been torn down, just before the rubble was burned, and accepted by Archives of Ontario for preservation.

Mary Ann Shadd

American abolitionist Mary Ann Shadd lived in Ontario between 1851-1863.

The premise of the film is that, had the letters been found before the 1960s, they might not have been offered to, or accepted by the Archives. Smith argues that it was the emergence in the 1960s of ideas about social history, and the civil rights movement, that led the owners of the letters and the Archives to realize their importance to the regional history of Buxton and also to the broader history of the Province of Ontario.

The film is being hosted on the Active History website with the written portion of Smith’s major research project. The film had been one of the performances at Carleton Professor David Dean’s Performing History Keynote event at the Active History conference in October, 2015.

Allison Smith

Allison Smith completed her MA in Public History in 2015 under the supervision of John Walsh and James Miller.  She gained experience in documentary film-making as an honour’s student in Michael Ostroff’s 4th year seminar, Making Documentary History.