Frederick Douglass arrives in Dublin

31st August 1845
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In 1845, the American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) visited Ireland, forging a lasting friendship with our great liberator, Daniel O’Connell. His time here, Douglass said, defined him "not as a colour but as a man." In 1845, he published a memoir of his life as an American slave (which placed him at risk of recapture) and fled to the UK, spending several months campaigning in Ireland. Douglass spoke at events in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Waterford, Celbridge, Belfast, Lisburn, Hollywood and Bangor.

Of his arrival in Ireland, Frederick Douglass wrote:

‘‘Eleven days and a half gone, and I have crossed three thousand miles of the perilous deep ocean… Instead of the bright blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! the chattel becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an insult.”

Of his first weeks in Dublin, he wrote:

‘‘Our success here is even greater than I had anticipated. We have held four glorious anti-slavery meetings – two in the Royal Exchange & two in the Friends’ meeting-house – all crowded to overflowing. 

One of the most pleasing features of my visit, thus far, has been a total absence of all manifestations of prejudice against me, on account of my colour. The change of circumstances, in this, is particularly striking. I go on stagecoaches, steamboats, into the first cabins, & in the first public houses, without the slightest manifestation of that hateful & vulgar feeling. I find myself not treated as a colour, but as a man – not as a thing, but as a child of the common Father of us all.’’

READ MORE Frederick Douglass speaks in Waterford

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