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Dublin City Council unveils plaque honouring anti-slavery leader Fredrick Douglass

Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass visited Ireland in 1845.

Pictured outside the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar, Dublin, today are (l to r) historian Cecelia Hartsell and Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at the unveiling of a plaque commemorating American anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass. Dublin City Council mounted the plaque to honor Douglass's 1845 visit to Eustace Street.
Pictured outside the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar, Dublin, today are (l to r) historian Cecelia Hartsell and Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at the unveiling of a plaque commemorating American anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass. Dublin City Council mounted the plaque to honor Douglass's 1845 visit to Eustace Street.
Image: asko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 21st 2021, 4:52 PM

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has installed a commemorative plaque in the city centre, to honour anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass.

It was unveiled earlier today by Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland at the Irish Film Institute (IFI), Eustace Street, Temple Bar, formerly the location of the Friends’ Meeting House.

Douglass was born into slavery in 1818 and went on to escape in 1838. He later published his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself in 1845 and visited Dublin the same year.

Fear of being captured and returned to slavery, as well as the success of his book in Europe, led him to visit Ireland and the UK between 1845 and 1847.

When in Dublin he was a guest of Dublin’s Quaker Community and in September 1845 Douglass spoke at the Friends’ Meeting House.

Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland remarked: “I am proud that Dublin City is honouring the memory of Frederick Douglass here today, with a plaque that tells all who see it that back in 1845, he found himself welcomed with, in his own words, ‘a total absence of all manifestations of prejudice…’ and was treated not as ‘as a colour, but as a man.’”

Professor Margaret Kelleher, chair of the IFI, said: “On 9th September 1845, in this building which is now home to the IFI, Frederick Douglass delivered a stirring oration against slavery and in defence of human liberty.”

“We at the IFI are very proud to mark today not only such a historic event but also his continuing legacy and inspiration,” she added.

During his time in Ireland, Douglass met Daniel O’Connell, a firm opponent of slavery, and the two men spoke at O’Connell’s Conciliation Hall, on Burgh Quay.

The plaque commemorating Douglass was proposed by Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, chair of the Dublin City Council Commemorations & Naming Committee.

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Councillor Mac Donncha said: “This plaque to Frederick Douglass sees the great African-American anti-slavery leader recognised by our City for his immense contribution to human liberty and progress. It is appropriate that this site links the United Irish Society which met here in the 1790s, the Society of Friends which hosted Frederick Douglass and still meets on this street, and the Irish Film Institute, a cultural hub of Dublin.”

“Acts of commemoration such as this serve to remind us that while slavery was abolished in the United States, racism persists and needs to be opposed vigorously in all countries including our own,” he added.

After visiting Ireland and the UK, in 1847 Douglass returned to America. He later went on to become a leader of the abolitionist movement, a writer, a government official and a renowned orator.

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