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Education – Dr. Shadd

Dr. Shadd was a teacher in Ontario before moving to Saskatchewan. He worked at the Buxton School in Kent County. Buxton School was known for the quality education it provided to its students, regardless of race. Families would move to the area specifically so their children could attend the local school.

Folding ruler which belonged to Dr. Shadd. On display at the Melfort and District Museum. WDM photo. Click to enlarge.

Though this school was racially integrated, many other schools in the area were segregated, including the King Street School, where Dr. Shadd served as principal. A motion from the Kent County Civil Rights league successfully campaigned for wider integration in schools, and Dr. Shadd was the last principal for King Street School before it was desegregated.

In 1896, Alfred Shadd moved to the Northwest Territories (now Saskatchewan) to teach. He seems to have been in need of funds to finish his last year of medical school in Toronto, so he may have been financially motivated. He had answered an ad in a Toronto newspaper and was offered the position.

There was no school in town when Alfred Shadd arrived, so he began teaching out of the Agricultural Hall, which also hosted church services and social gatherings.

It appears that no one in Carrot River Settlement (now Kinistino) had been aware of Alfred’s race when he was hired. The family who was originally tasked with housing the new teacher for Carrot River refused to allow a Black man into their home and he was instead sent to lodge with the Lowrie family.

“Regarding our schools, I believe the matter of their control should have been left in our own hands. Personally I am convinced that in countries like this where men of every race and creed are coming in and making their homes, a system of national schools for all the little children alike would be the best way of forming good Canadian citizens of them all.”
– A.S. Shadd, editorial in his Journal as he asked for support in the 1905 election of the Province of  Saskatchewan

At first many parents were opposed to a Black man teaching their children, questioning his abilities on no grounds other than his race. Despite this, Alfred quickly proved himself to even the most skeptical of white settler families. He was a skilled teacher and well-liked by his students. He already had some medical training upon his arrival in the Northwest Territories and was frequently called out to help treat injuries and illnesses. His medical expertise certainly increased his standing in the community as well.

Alfred Shadd also fought for a curriculum that would resonate with the diverse backgrounds of his students, not just one focused on white, Anglo-Canadian settlers.

His sense of humour helped him earn the love and respect of his students and their families too. He was known for having a joke for every situation to help lighten the mood or relieve tension. He was also known for a booming laugh which many patients said was a form of medicine on its own.

After one year in Carrot River Settlement, Alfred returned to Toronto to finish his medical studies. He returned as a doctor shortly after receiving his medical degree.

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