In August 1845, a young fugitive slave arrived in Dublin to oversee the publication of his bestselling life story, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. Seven years earlier, Douglass had escaped from slavery, but the Fugitive Slave Act meant that he remained in danger of being captured and returned to his ‘master.’ His work as a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society and the success of his Narrative increased this risk and so he was persuaded to travel to Britain, where he would be safe. However, an Irish Quaker printer, Richard Webb, who was also an ardent abolitionist, offered to reprint the book, and thus provide Douglass with an income. So, two days after arriving in the transatlantic port of Liverpool, Douglass travelled to Dublin. He had intended to stay for four days, but remained in the country for four months, describing these four months as “the happiest times” in his life. Moreover, for the first time in his life, he felt truly free and like “a man, and not a color.”
This presentation will explore Douglas’s time in Ireland and his life-long fascination with the country and its people.
CHRISTINE KINEALY is the founding director of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. She is an authority on Irish history and is the author of 20 books and numerous scholarly articles on Irish and Irish American history. In 2011, Kinealy was named “one of the most influential Irish Americans” by Irish America magazine, and, in 2014, “Woman of the Year” by the Irish American Heritage and Culture Committee of the New York Department of Education. Her most recent work is Frederick Douglass and Ireland. In His Own Words (2 vols, Routledge, 2018). She is also curator of a year-long exhibition at Quinnipiac University entitled Frederick Douglass in Ireland: “The Black O’Connell.”