Frederick Douglass: A Black Abolitionist in Ireland

Bill Rolston describes the impact of an erstwhile slave, who toured the Emerald Isle speaking out against slavery in 1845.

In 1845 an African-American abolitionist visited Ireland as part of an extended lecture tour to the United Kingdom. Although only twenty-seven years old, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was already an accomplished orator and clearly a man marked out to make a great impression on the struggle for black liberation. But paradoxically, his oratory and fame had also proven to be a problem in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he had settled after escaping from slavery in September 1838. His friends feared that his public profile would bring him to the attention of his erstwhile owners who might then seek the return of their runaway property. It seemed expedient that Douglass should ‘lie low’ for a while. An extended speaking tour of Britain seemed to be of benefit to everyone concerned.

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