- 31 Jul 23
A new statue honouring anti-slavery crusader Frederick Douglass was unveiled in Belfast this morning.
The city of Belfast unveiled its newest monument this morning: a statue of the famous abolitionist and civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass.
The statue is located at the corner of Rosemary and Lombard street, and was unveiled at 11 am this morning.
The statue is the first monument of its kind on the island to honour Douglass, who spent nearly two years travelling around Great Britain and Ireland giving public speeches.
Douglass visited Ireland multiple times during his life, first arriving after escaping slavery and fleeing the United States. He arrived in Ireland a year after his famous autobiography was published, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself.'
Douglass risked his freedom by remaining in the United States after the book was published, as it could be used as evidence to sell him back into the system he had escaped. He lived in Britain until 1847, making multiple trips to Ireland.
His first visit went from October to December 1846, just as the Great Hunger was beginning. He toured all around the island from Belfast to Waterford, Cork and Limerick, giving speeches in favour of abolition, women's rights, and temperance.
In his newspaper, the Liberator, he said of the poverty in Ireland, "I see much here to remind me of my former condition, and I confess I should be ashamed to lift up my voice against American slavery, but that I know the cause of humanity is one the world over. He who really and truly feels for the American slave, cannot steel his heart to the woes of others."
He also made frequent visits to Edinburgh, where he was appointed "Scotland's anti-slavery agent."
In late 1847, two Quaker women, Anna Richardson and Ellen of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, raised funds to buy Douglass from his previous owner, at which point he was legally free and could return to the United States.
Douglass lived the rest of his life in the America, but remarked upon his time in Belfast, "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."
There are multiple plaques throughout Ireland honouring Douglass. Waterford unveiled their plaque in 2013, Wexford in 2019 at city's first Civil Rights Festival, and Dublin's came two years later in 2021.
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