BREAKING THE ICE, THE STORY OF MARY ANN SHADD sheds new light on the remarkable, little known story of the abolitionist, suffragette and integrationist Mary Ann Shadd. Living in Windsor, Ontario, she fought for integrated education, battled segregationists and started the first integrated school in Canada. Shadd later became the first female newspaper editor and the first black female attorney in North America.
Shadd grew up free in Delaware where her father's shoemaking store was part of the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves flee to Canada. Moving to Canada herself in 1851, to teach escaped slaves, Shadd succeeded in opening the first racially integrated school against the wishes of a powerful opposition. Most abolitionists, Black or White, favored separate but equal communities. Shadd's support for integration embroiled her in a public dispute with Henry Bibb, the established leader in the Black community. Bibb's newspaper, the Voice of the Fugitive, attacked Shadd's ideas and character, leading Shadd to found The Provincial Freeman, thereby becoming the first Black woman in North America to own and edit a newspaper. Shadd believed that separate churches, schools and communities would ultimately undermine the search for freedom. Integration would require self-sufficiency, but it also meant living and working in cooperation with others.
Mary Ann Shadd's fight for education and equality for Blacks led her to study law. Graduating from Howard University, she began practicing at the age of 60. The legacy of her efforts in law, publishing and education are a testament to her refusal to accept the socially imposed limits of Blacks or Whites. Using interviews with Shadd's familial and ideological descendents, BREAKING THE ICE, THE STORY OF MARY ANN SHADD recreates the experiences of the early Black community in Canada, while opening an engaging chapter on Black Canadian and African-American history.
"Beautifully photographed... to recreate Shadd's experiences and activities. A number of narrators, some Shadd's own descendants, help to give variety to the narrative. This video will be useful for classes in African American history, civil rights issues, and women's studies wherever they may be taught. Shadd's contributions show what perseverance and refusal to accept the status quo can achieve." - School Library Journal
2001 National Women's Studies Association Conference Film Festival
"BREAKING THE ICE: THE STORY OF MARY ANN SHADD will inspire present and future generations of students to engage in rigorous research that will undoubtedly restore Shadd to her deserved place in North American History.... An indispensable pedagogical tool for generations of visually oriented students." - Abafazi Journal
"Through background stills, drawings, reenactments, and informed commentary from family members and biographers, this inspiring story ... makes a worthy addition to comprehensive black history collections." - Booklist