He used to deliver the mail. Now he’ll be on it.
Albert Jackson, who fled to Canada on the Underground Railroad and overcame racial discrimination to become Toronto’s, and the country’s, first Black letter carrier will be honored with a commemorative stamp in February coinciding with Black History Month.
“Our chests are so far out, in terms of pride,” says Jay Jackson, the great-grandson of Albert Jackson, who became the first Black postman in May 1882. “It’s something we were hoping would come together and it’s now at fruition. We’re so very proud.”
He credits the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), particularly Mark Brown, for lobbying Canada Post for several years to include Albert Jackson in its Black History series. Launched in 2009, the series has included trailblazers Viola Desmond, Lincoln Alexander, Kathleen ‘Kay’ Livingstone and Mathieu Da Costa.
“It has been a long fight and we are pleased that Albert Jackson will finally get the prominence he deserves,” said Brown in a statement. “This is great news.”
The current issue of Details, a Canada Post magazine for collectors, reveals Jackson is the 2019 Black History Month stamp in a sneak peak of what to expect next year.
Born a slave in Delaware, around 1856, Albert Jackson was one of nine children. After two brothers were sold, and his father died, his mother Ann Maria Jackson fled in 1858 with her seven children to Philadelphia, where African-American abolitionist William Still ran a station of the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves get to Canada.
The family settled in Toronto. In 1882, when many Black men worked as labourers or in the service industry, Jackson landed a government-appointed job as a letter carrier. But on his first day, white postmen refused to train him because he was Black, so he was reassigned to hall porter.
The incident sparked headlines in newspapers. On May 17, an article in The Evening Telegram described Jackson as “the obnoxious coloured man,” saying he elicited “intense disgust of the existing post office staff.” Two days later an editorial in that paper noted, “Objection to the young man on account of his colour is indefensible … Taxes are not made a penny less to a man because he happens to have dark skin.”