The Black O’Connell

Fredrick Douglas Statue

As I prepare for my trip to Ireland next month to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Belfast to Derry Civil Rights March, people have been recommending that I read about Fredrick Douglas’ historic four-month visit to Ireland in 1845. In Northern Ireland, I’ve been informed, I’ll discover murals of Douglas and other Civil Rights activists painted on walls in Belfast and Derry.

Earlier this week I finished a wonderful book on Douglas titled Fredrick Douglas Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. It’s a sweeping history of Douglas’ life and times from birth to death. I was so moved by the culmination of his life in the story that I cried when he passed away.

And to give more meaning to my research on his life I visited Quinnipiac University last weekend to see a special exhibit there on Fredrick Douglas in Ireland. Quinnipiac is home to the Irish Hunger Museum. (See attached pictures of the museum).

Daniel O’Connell & Fredrick Douglas

Douglas spent four months in Ireland giving over 50 speeches and publishing a special Irish edition of his autobiography The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas, An American Slave. On one of his first nights in Dublin where he landed in August 1845, he met another famous Abolitionist named Daniel O’Connell, who Douglas greatly admired for his oratory skills. O’Connell invited Douglas to the stage to speak and the nickname the Black O’Connell was given to Douglas. As I explore Civil Rights, Peace and Reconciliation, and identity in Northern Ireland I will remember Fredrick Douglas and the love the Irish provided him while there.

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