IN August 1845, Frederick Douglass, a 27-year-old abolitionist and former slave, arrived in Dublin.
While he only intended to stay in the city for four days, its warmth and the good-natured interactions he had with the locals, compelled him to extend it – eventually, he stayed in Ireland for four months.
He later described his time spent on the Emerald Isle as “transformative” and the “happiest time of his life.”
Just under two centuries later, to honour one of the islands most esteemed guests, Professor Christine Kinealy, the author of Black Abolitionists in Ireland, has created the Frederick Douglass Way, which maps out Douglass’s steps for modern day visitors to retrace his footsteps during his 1845 Dublin sojourn.
The following ten locations, straddling both the north and south side of Ireland's capital city, map the route of the new Frederick Douglass Way in Dublin:
- 35 Eccles Way - home of James Haughton, one of Frederick's hosts
- Rotunda Meeting Rooms - where many abolitionists spoke
- Music Hall, Abbey Street - where Douglass delivered a lecture
- Epic Museum / National Famine Memorial - a special marker for the new Way
- O'Connell Statue, near Burgh Quay - site of the now-demolished Conciliation Hall where Douglass met with Daniel O'Connell
- Pearse Street, formerly Great Brunswick Street - where Douglass stayed during his visit
- 58 Merrion Square - home of Daniel O'Connell
- Mansion House, Dawson Street - where Douglass dined with the Lord Mayor
- Friends' Meeting Room, Eustace Street - where Douglass delivered a lecture
- City Hall (formerly the Royal Exchange), Dame Street - where Douglass delivered his first lecture
In his memoir "My Bondage and My Freedom: Part I – Life as a Slave, Part II – Life as a Freeman," Douglass wrote of Ireland:
“Eleven days and a half gone and I have crossed three thousand miles of the perilous deep. Instead of a democratic government, I am under a monarchical government.
"Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle [Ireland]. I breathe, and lo! the chattel [slave] 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. I employ a cab—I am seated beside white people—I reach the hotel—I enter the same door—I am shown into the same parlour—I dine at the same table—and no one is offended ...
"I find myself regarded and treated at every turn with the kindness and deference paid to white people. When I go to church, I am met by no upturned nose and scornful lip to tell me, 'We don't allow n****** in here!'”
While in Ireland, Douglass attended a speech by Daniel O'Connell, a key player in Ireland's Catholic Emancipation, in Dublin on September 29, 1845.
Clearly moved by O’Connell’s oratory, Kinealy’s book includes an excerpt that Douglass wrote to a friend, W.L. Garrison back in the US:
"I have heard many speakers within the last four years—speakers of the first order; but I confess, I have never heard one, by whom I was more completely captivated than by Mr. O’Connell," it reads.
In anticipation of the 175th anniversary of Douglass's trip to Ireland, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said: "I am looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of the historic meeting between Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell 175 years ago.
"The connection between these two great men, and the legacy both have left, remind us of the imperative always to strive for equality and liberty, wherever we see oppression or exclusion."