Marking a family's history for all of Delaware to see

Mike Phillips // WDEL

The family of Abraham Shadd traces its history back to pre-Revolutionary War Delaware, and now anyone walking along King Street in Wilmington can learn more.

On Wednesday, February 2, 2022, Governor John Carney joined with descendants of Abraham Shadd to unveil a state historical marker in honor of the Shadd family at Spencer Plaza.

On hand for the event was Janmichael Shadd Graine, the great-great-great grandson of Abraham Shadd.

"He was a stalwart in the abolitionist movement and he was the standard bearer in the family," said Graine.

Abraham Shadd's story began with his grandfather, a Hessian soldier.

"He ends up marrying the daughter of this free black woman, and the family just grew from there," said Graine.

Abraham took over his father's business as a shoemaker, but Graine said he was

a cobbler by day and an abolitionist by night.

"Particularly being a black man had to be very secretive about being an abolitionist because he wouldn't have been fined, he would have probably been killed if he had been caught," said Graine.

Shadd was known to have worked with Wilmington abolitionist Thomas Garrett, a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad.

Shadd eventually moved his family first to West Chester, Pennsylvania where his children could be educated, and then Canada following passage of the Fugitive Slave Act.

In Canada, Abraham Shadd became one of the first black men to be elected to public office.

Graine said the extended family is elated and proud to have Delaware recognize the contributions of Shadd and his eldest daughter Mary Ann.

"To work here in Wilmington helping folks seek freedom it's just an honor to see him being recognized for that," said Shadd.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary went on to make her own mark as a teacher, lawyer, journalist, and eventually the first Black woman to hold the title of newspaper editor in North America.

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