The Legacy of Mary Ann McCracken: From Belfast to America

Mary Ann McCracken spent most of her life dedicated to help the poor of Belfast. However she always had one eye on international affairs, namely America and the slave trade. In 1859 she wrote that America “considered the land of the great, the brave, may more properly be styled the land of the tyrant and the Slave”.

Mary Ann was a life-long abolitionist, founding the Belfast Women’s Anti-Slavery League. In her late eighties, she could still be found on the docks, handing out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants embarking for the slave-owning United States.

The Mary Ann McCracken Foundation, set up in 2021, seeks to protect Mary Ann’s legacy, and ensure that she is never again written out of history or relegated to the margins. To continue this important work, the Foundation is delighted to welcome Dr Mary Alice C. Clancy as Development Coordinator. Mary Alice is originally from Rhode Island in the States, thereby continuing the Belfast / America connection into the 21st Century.

As a student Mary Alice came to Belfast to study a Masters at Queen’s University, which then progressed into a funded PhD position. Following her studies, she worked in universities in England and Scotland for a decade before returning to Belfast in 2019 to take up a role as a researcher for Women’s Aid NI before joining the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation in April 2022.

She explains “The Mary Ann McCracken Foundation Coordinator allows me to combine my interests in research, the third sector, and the arts. Being able to research and share the story of one of Belfast’s greatest heroes, whilst furthering her legacy of social justice, is very much a dream job”.

In addition to Clifton House’s small team of volunteer tour guides, you will often find Mary Alice leading the Hero of Belfast: Mary Ann McCracken Walking Tour, which leaves from Clifton House every Friday afternoon at 2pm. As a charitable foundation, all proceeds from the tours feed back into the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation to be given out as grants and donations. The current project is bursaries for 12 North Belfast schools to help break down financial barriers to education or work.

The best part of my week is Friday afternoons. It’s great to share Mary Ann’s story with visitors and residents, and to have locals see the streets of Belfast in an entirely new way, all while helping to raise money for our North Belfast Post Primary bursaries.”

To find out more about the Mary Ann McCracken Foundation Post Primary Bursaries.

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