Quinnipiac marked the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth with a series of events to honor his life and his many achievements. One of the high points was a yearlong exhibition curated by Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute that focused on the time Douglass spent in Ireland and his enduring relationship with that country.


Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Maryland. At the age of 20, he escaped to the north, where he quickly established himself as a talented speaker and writer.

In 1845, Douglass wrote his life story: “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Written by Himself.” To avoid being captured and returned to slavery, he travelled to Europe. He spent the first four months of his exile in Ireland, returning there three more times in 1846. Douglass described his time in Ireland as “transformative” and as “the happiest days of my life.” In 1847, he returned to America, his freedom having been “purchased” by female abolitionists.

A statue of Frederick Douglass

Statue of Frederick Douglass

By Andrew Edwards, Castle Fine Arts Foundry, England. Photography by Jack Rummel, Boston.

Douglass did not know his birthday, suspecting he had been born in either 1817 or 1818. It later turned out to be 1818. He chose February 14 as the date to commemorate his birthday.

“I am not only an American slave, but a man, and as such, am bound to use my powers for the welfare of the whole human brotherhood.”
Frederick Douglass, 1846



“Frederick Douglass and Ireland: In His Own Words”
Edited by Christine Kinealy

Frederick Douglass spent four months in Ireland at the end of 1845 that proved to be, in his own words, “transformative.” He reported that for the first time in his life he felt like a man, and not a chattel. Whilst in residence, he became a spokesperson for the abolition movement, but by the time he left the country in early January 1846, he believed that the cause of the slave was the cause of the oppressed everywhere.

This book adds new insight into Frederick Douglass and his time in Ireland. Contemporary newspaper accounts of the lectures that Douglass gave during his tour of Ireland (in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Belfast) have been located and transcribed. The speeches are annotated and accompanied by letters written by Douglass during his stay. In this way, for the first time, we hear Douglass in his own words.


Selected Press

Irish Times, September 2018
“‘Frederick Douglass and Ireland: In His Own Words’: A compelling account of a historic moment”

Irish Times — The Women's Podcast, September 2018
“The Irish Women who Helped Frederick Douglass”

Near FM 90.3, September 2018
“The Arts Show: Prof. Christine Kinealy, author of Frederick Douglass and Ireland: In his own words”

Irish Examiner, September 2018
“Irish women’s fight against slavery during the Great Famine”

RTÉ, September 2018
“When Frederick Douglass came to Ireland — in his own words”

Irish Central, July 2018
“Take a live tour of the Frederick Douglass in Ireland exhibit with Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute”

Contact Us

For more information, please contact:

Ann Marie Godbout
Assistant to Ireland's Great Hunger Institute

About Us

About us

Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University fosters a deeper understanding of the Great Hunger of Ireland and its causes and consequences through a strategic program of lectures, conferences, course offerings and publications.