Albert Jackson used to deliver the mail. Now he'll be on it.
In February 2019, Canada Post will honour Black History Month by releasing a stamp featuring Jackson. So who was this man?
Albert Jackson was born a slave in 1856 in the U.S. state of Delaware. Eventually, he fled to Canada on the famed Underground Railroad, looking for a better life.
And by May 1882, Jackson seemed to have found it. He was to start his new job as a postman in Toronto! It should've been a simple start to a new career. But though Jackson had successfully escaped slavery, racism was more difficult to avoid.
Not only were there no black letter carriers in Toronto, there weren't any in the entire country and never had been. White people working in the post office refused to train him, instead making him a hall porter (someone who attended to odd jobs around the office).
But Jackson wasn't going to be denied so easily.
News of this story hit the city's newspapers. Within a few days, opinions pieces also appeared, criticizing the racism of the postal workers. By the end of May, the controversy had reached all the way to Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, who met with a group demanding that black men be allowed to carry the mail. Two days later, Albert Jackson was officially a postman in Toronto.
A quiet legacy
Jackson worked as a letter carrier for 36 years, right up until his death in 1918. His story was largely forgotten for decades, but recently this has changed. Since an article appeared in the Toronto Star in 2012 on his legacy, there has been a play about him called The Postman in 2014, and a plaque commemorating his achievements in 2017.
Now over 100 years after he last delivered the mail, Canada Post will honour him with a stamp. Along with Viola Desmond's long-awaited $10 bill being released into circulation this Monday, November 19, these are important days for acknowledging racism in Canada.
The colour barrier that Jackson broke might not seem as significant as the one that Jackie Robinson shattered, but all of these victories are about the same thing—giving all people the dignity and freedoms they deserve.