Frederick Douglass speaks in Wexford

8th October 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, Belfast, and more bearing witness to the suffering of the Great Hunger as it began to unfold.

On Tuesday 7 and Wed­nes­day 8 Oc­to­ber 1845, Dou­glass ap­peared in the As­sem­bly Rooms in Wex­ford (now the Corn­mar­ket cen­tre), before a mostly Quaker audience.  The talk started at 8 o’clock and the admission charge was 4d or fourpence. The lecture was advertised in the Wex­ford In­de­pen­dent (a pro-Re­peal news­pa­per pub­lished by John Green, who was Mayor of Wexford 7 times).

Joseph Poole wrote:

‘Mr. Edi­tor - you are with­out doubt an anti-slav­ery man, and will have plea­sure of the fact that the ex­e­crable sys­tem of Amer­i­can Slav­ery has had a most com­plete ex­po­sure in our good town of Wex­ford, at the hands of one of its fugi­tive vic­tims and most elo­quent and de­ter­mined op­po­nents, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, of Lynne, Mas­sachusetts, re­cently a slave in Mary­land, and now threat­ened in his life and lib­erty for his coura­geous de­nun­ci­a­tion of of its in­iq­uity, and who has been driven thereby from the land of stars and stripes - the land of free­dom and equal­ity - the land of re­li­gion and civil­i­sa­tion - the United States of Amer­ica, to seek pro­tec­tion from the piti­less grip of his mas­ter in the bo­som of the Green is­land, in the hearts and be­neath the shel­ter­ing arm of the lib­erty-lov­ing sons of Old Ire­land.’

In the Assembly Room Dou­glass pro­claimed aloud his man­hood and the man­hood of his race and its iden­tity with the whole broth­er­hood of man, Joseph Poole reported;

‘I am your brother" said Dou­glass, and the as­sent of his hear­ers was pro­claimed in such a univer­sal shout of ap­pro­ba­tion that the old walls shook to hear three mil­lion of our broth­ers and sis­ters still lan­guish in bondage of the most hideous de­scrip­tion in the South­ern State of Amer­ica.’

SEE ALSO ‘Fred­er­ick Dou­glass and Ire­land: In His Own Words’, by Chris­tine Kinealy

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