Friday, 03 July 2015 11:32 | Written by Lise Hosein
The story of Albert Jackson, Toronto’s first postman, doesn’t begin in a particularly positive way. It was the late nineteenth century, our city certainly was not free of racism, and a black man applying to deliver the mail was not an idea met with open arms.
David Ferry is the Project Director and co-creator of The Postman, a new play that will trace the porches and streets of Albert Jackson’s mail route.
Yes, he did get one – after the postmaster told Albert he was relegated to mopping floors, he contacted John A. Macdonald to make a plea for his involvement. And the community got involved as well.
So the story of Albert Jackson is one of triumph – he stayed a postman his whole life. He died in 1918. The themes of struggle and victory began before Albert was born in Delaware to slaves – some of his siblings were sold when he was young. When his father died, his mother made her escape and took the dangerous road toward freedom – the perils of making this journey were not limited to being captured, starving to death, or losing her children. As did many others at the time, Anne Maria Jackson was able to enlist the help of the Underground Railroad, and she finally made it to Ontario, a free woman. It’s both Anne Maria’s story and Albert’s that inspired David Ferry and a team of writers and composers to create this play.
Telling this story has become an intricate venture with seven writers and two composers. The Postman is staged along Jackson’s route – Ferry and his team have enlisted the help of many homes along the way whose porches and front steps will be taken over by the production. Most of the story will be told in 12 different spots. Music will be performed along the way by musicians that’ll recall the days of bluegrass street performers. And undoubtedly it will give the people who experience it a different perspective on the neighbourhood and a glimpse at a very different time in our city’s history. And David is positive it will also give us a sense of hope – there’s a lot to learn from the story of Albert Jackson.
The Postman runs from July 12-26 – when you buy your tickets, you’ll be told where to meet to begin the play. Make sure you pay close attention – the route will change slightly from night to night. Details are here.