The Postman, Toronto’s First Black Mail Carrier

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The story of “The Postman” starts in Delaware where Ann Maria Jackson is a slave with nine children. Her husband is a free Black man.

When the slaveowner dies, his son, and his inheritor, promptly sells the two oldest boys without notifying the parents or giving them an opportunity to say good-bye. The father is so heartbroken, he has a breakdown and goes to an insane asylum where he dies. Afraid that her other children will be sold, Ann Maria wakes her children at 1 in the morning and dresses them.

She leaves with a toddler on her back, little Albert in her arms and the five other children walking. With help from the Underground Railroad, they walk 500 miles to Toronto, Canada.

They do very well there. Ann Maria and her daughters take in washing, the children all go to school, and her boys take up occupations—one of them becoming a popular barber. The youngest, Albert, who was carried by his mother to Canada, trained and was appointed as a postman.

When he arrives for work, the other postmen refuse to give him a route. Friends write letters to the newspapers and the issue becomes heated. It’s an election year and the Liberals try to sway the Black vote by pledging to help Albert start to work.

The Conservatives get into the picture too, and Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister of Canada, comes to Toronto and assures his Black voters that Albert will be soon be delivering the mail. Within a few days he becomes the first Black postman in Toronto.

The two older boys escape to Canada to find their family. News spread by word-of-mouth about the woman who came to Canada with seven children, which was the largest family group to come to Canada, and the boys were able to trace them.

What made this play production even more meaningful was that there were several descendants of Albert Jackson in the audience: grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. During the PanAm Games in Toronto this summer, the production will be repeated on the verandahs of houses on Albert’s postal route, with the audience travelling to the different venues with the cast.

It’s a reader’s theatre with engaging music, and the director hopes to prepare it for presentation by students in Toronto schools.

Editor’s note: Helen Warner and her husband President Malcolm Warner formerly headed the LDS Mission in Oakland. She initiated a Black Family Roots Program that has grown to become a project implemented throughout the country. She wrote a review of the play “The Postman” she saw recently in Toronto, Canada.

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