Frederick Douglass in Ireland: “The Black O’Connell”
This exhibition explored the time Douglass spent in Ireland in 1845-1846 and the impact that the country had on his personal and political development. A highlight of his stay was meeting his hero, the Irish nationalist and abolitionist, Daniel O’Connell. It was while speaking in front of O’Connell that Douglass made an impassioned plea for his enslaved people to find their own “Black O’Connell.” Throughout his life, Douglass would playfully refer to himself in this way. Frederick Douglass in Ireland: “The Black O’Connell” opened to the public in the Lender Special Collection Room at the Arnold Bernhard Library on the Mount Carmel Campus on February 2, 2018.
A smaller exhibition, which features a stunning statue of Frederick aged 27 (when he visited Ireland) is still on display in the School of Law on the North Haven Campus.
“I can truly say, I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in this country. I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live a new life…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.”Frederick Douglass on Ireland, 1846
February 2, 2018 to January 28, 2019
Interactive Ireland Map: Frederick’s Speeches
In May 1845, Frederick Douglass published a narrative account of his life history as a way of proving to his detractors that he really had been enslaved for the first twenty years of his life. The success of the publication put Douglass in even greater danger of being captured and returned to slavery under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. To protect Douglass, his friends persuaded him to leave the country and travel to the United Kingdom. There, not only would he be safe, but he could work to strengthen the trans-Atlantic abolition movement.
Douglass arrived in Liverpool in August 1845. He spent two days in the city and then sailed for Ireland where a Quaker printer, Richard Webb, had agreed to publish an Irish version of the “Narrative.” Douglass had only intended to stay in the country for a few days only, but he was so warmly welcomed that he stayed for four months. During that time, he toured throughout Ireland and made almost fifty speeches on slavery and abolition.
Publications and Documentary
Publications and Documentary
“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.
“Frederick Douglass in Ireland”
Directed and Produced by Rebecca Abbott
Rebecca Abbott, Professor Emerita of Communications at Quinnipiac University, recently directed and produced the short documentary “Frederick Douglass in Ireland.” The film gives an overview of Douglass' life, focusing on his life-changing time spent in Ireland from 1845-1846.
Rebecca Abbott is Professor Emerita of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and is an independent film producer, director and editor. Her many films include the Emmy award winning documentaries “Albert Schweitzer: My Life is My Argument” (2006) about humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, “Aeromedical” (2013) on aeromedical rescue in the US Air Force, and “Ireland’s Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora” (2016), which is narrated by actor Gabriel Byrne and explores the many complex, historical events that lead to mass starvation, disease, death and emigration in 19th-century Ireland. Abbott has degrees from Dartmouth College (BA, Visual Studies), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA, Filmmaking) and Yale University (MA, American Studies).
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”
The Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Bailey was born into slavery in Maryland.
While still a child, he was taught the alphabet, which was illegal.
He began work in a shipyard.
His first attempt to escape to the North was unsuccessful. He was jailed.
He escaped to New York on September 3.
He married Anna Murray, a free woman, on September 15. They moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts on September 17.
He changed his name to Frederick Douglass.
He spoke about his experiences at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on Nantucket Island.
During a lecture tour, he was beaten by a mob.
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” was published in May.
To avoid being returned to slavery, he traveled to Liverpool in August, and from there to Ireland. He was denied access to first-class cabins.
On August 31, he arrived in Dublin, where he lectured on abolition and temperance.
An Irish version of the “Narrative” was published in September.
On September 29, he lectured on the same stage as his hero, Daniel O’Connell.
From October to December, he lectured at various sites in Wexford, Waterford, Cork City, Limerick and Belfast, before returning to Britain in January 1846.
He made a brief return to Belfast in June and again in July.
In October, he made a brief return to Belfast with William Lloyd Garrison. On December 12, female abolitionists in England “purchased” Frederick’s freedom from slavery.
He departed from Liverpool onboard the Cambria on April 4. Again he was denied access to first-class cabins.
In the fall, he and his family moved to Rochester, New York.
In December, he launched the North Star newspaper.
He signed the Declaration of Sentiments in favor of Women's Rights.
Frederick Douglass’ Paper published.
He delivered his oration, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society.
He published his second autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom.”
He traveled to England via Canada to avoid arrest following the abolitionist rising at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.
President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. Douglass approved and supported the Union war.
He met with Lincoln in the White House for the second time.
Mary Lincoln gave Douglass her assassinated husband’s favorite walking cane.
He published an appeal for “impartial suffrage” for the black man.
Douglass family home in Rochester was burned down. The family moved to Washington, D.C.
He was appointed U.S. Marshal for District of Columbia.
Third autobiography, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” was published (revised in 1892).
His wife, Anna Douglass, died in August.
He married Helen Pitts.
He traveled to Europe with Helen.
He returned to Dublin by himself in the summer. Many of his former friends had passed away.
He spoke in Washington, D.C, in favor of Irish Home Rule in December.
He was appointed Minister to the Republic of Haiti.
He died at his home in Washington, D.C., on February 20. That day, he had attended a meeting of the National Council of Women. He was buried in Rochester, beside his first wife.
For more information, please contact:
Ann Marie Godbout
Assistant to Ireland's Great Hunger Institute
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.