A Plea for Emigration


142 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55128-053-1
DDC 971.3'00496





Edited by Richard Almonte
Reviewed by Joseph Leydon

Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.


Originally published in 1852, A Plea for Emigration was written at a
pivotal time in the history of North America. In 1850, the American
government passed the Fugitive Slave Law, and this law was the impetus
for this book. Written by an African American living in Canada West, its
primary function was to encourage African Americans to emigrate to
Canada West. Like other emigration guides, it provides information on
geography, climate, soils, land prices, employment, and so forth. Shadd
also deals with issues that are specific to the African-American
community, such as separate schools and churches. A believer in
assimilation, she argued that through assimilation blacks would benefit
from Canadian-British institutions. She placed the blame for segregation
in Canada squarely on the shoulders of certain leaders in the
African-American community.

Richard Almonte provides an introduction and explanatory notes for the
text. His purpose is to situate Shadd’s book in the context of
Canadian literature and to dispel the notion that important writing by
black Canadians did not begin until the late 20th century. In this, he
is successful. His notes provide much important contextual and
biographical information. Unfortunately, Almonte does not address some
inconsistencies in Shadd’s opinions. At the start of her writing
career, she advocated black independence through separation from white
Americans. In Canada West, however, she called for assimilation and
blamed the black community for the segregation that did exist.
Similarly, she argued that Canada West was the best place in the world,
yet in 1863 left Canada for good, returning to the United States. An
attempt to explain these contradictions would have been beneficial.


Shadd, Mary A., “A Plea for Emigration,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/3318.