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Direct Mail History: “The Postman” – A Play on Albert Jackson, Canada’s First Black Postman

On July 10th, The Pan Am Games began filling GTA arenas with cultural pride and cheer. Athletes and sports fans from across the Americas have fostered waves of adrenaline that race through our streets and squares.

With “Panamania” in the air, Toronto welcomes a busy start to the summer!

Racing alongside the festivities this month is a significant yet unexplored story. From July 14th to July 26th, Appledore Productions will pay homage to Albert Calvin Jackson, Canada’s first black letter carrier, in a play titled The Postman.

Albert was born into slavery in 1856. His mother, Ann Maria, and her remaining children–those who had not been sold away–fled from Milford, Delaware in 1858 through the Underground Railroad.

When the Jacksons reached Toronto, they began renting rooms in the St. John’s Ward slums as most refugees did. Ann Maria took in laundry in order to support her children and their education.

On May 17th, 1882, Albert became Canada’s first black postman.

During his early postal career, Albert fought and triumphed over racism. As he faced prejudice from the media, coworkers, and the nation in general, Albert’s story inspired the unification of Toronto’s black community. Their voices were recognized by then-Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, who responded by reaffirming racial equality in Canada on May 30th. Macdonald’s support was mainly provided in order to secure black voters.

Albert worked as a direct mail letter carrier until his death in 1918–back when mail could only be direct and tangible.

As we come together to celebrate our countries’ current values, this month is also a time to honour our valuable histories. Popular moments such as the Pan Am Games give nations a chance to prove what they’re “made of.” In order to prove this, we can often revisit the stories of where we come from.

The Postman is a play-in-motion, and will be performed on verandas in Harbord Village where Albert delivered mail for 36 years.

Please visit The Postmans website to learn more and to purchase your tickets!

Happy Pan Am to all!

Source: © Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2015. “The Postman play debuts on Toronto Porches,” Isabel Teotonio.

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