Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) was an African-American abolitionist, orator and writer, statesman and social reformer. He was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Maryland. Sophia Auld taught Frederick Douglass the alphabet when he was about 12 but her husband Hugh Auld forbade her giving additional lessons. Teaching slaves how to read and write was banned at that time. However Douglass continued to learn how to read and write and whilst still a slave taught others to do so.
Between 1836 and 1838 Douglass attempted to escape from various owners and succeeded in September 1838. It was at this time that he took the name Frederick Douglass. Douglass joined several organisations in New Bedford where he and his wife, Anna Murray, had settled. He also subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's weekly journal The Liberator. In 1841 Douglass delivered his speech at the the Massachusetts' Anti-Slavery Society annual convention in Nantucket.
In 1845 his first autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was published. This described his experience as a slave. It was published multiple times and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). In 1847 in Rochester, New York, Douglass started publishing his first abolitionist newspaper, The North Star which in 1851 merged with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper to form Frederick Douglass' Paper. Frederick Douglass' Paper continued being published until 1860. In 1848 Douglass was the only African-American to attend the Seneca Falls Convention which was the first women's rights convention. Douglass' speech at it was instrumental in influencing the assembly to pass a resolution asking for women's suffrage. In July 1852 Douglass addressed the ladies of Rochester's Anti-Slavery Sewing Society. This speech became known as "What to the slave is the 4th of July?"
Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War Douglass and other abolitionists argued that African-Americans should be allowed fight for their freedom. Three of Douglass' sons participated in the war. In 1865 the ratification of the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery. After the Civil War Douglass continued to pursue equality for African Americans. He continued to tour for speaking engagements in the US and abroad. In February 1895 shortly after his 77th birthday Douglass had a massive heart attack and passed away.
After the publication of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Douglass was advised to leave the US for fear of being recaptured by Auld. Between 1845 and 1846 Douglass toured Ireland and Great Britain. While he was in Ireland the Dublin abolitionist printer Richard D Webb published a number of editions of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Fionnghoula Sweeney discusses these various printings in her PhD thesis 'Frederick Douglass: Mask or Maroonage?: Atlantic Sites and the Politics of Representative Identity.'
When Douglass was in Cork he stayed with the Jennings family of Brown Street. The Jennings were Unitarians and were known abolitionists. The Misses Jennings were involved with the Cork Anti-Slavery Society. On this visit Douglass also met with Fr Theobald Mathew and was introduced to the temperance movement which he supported.
In 2012 a plaque as unveiled in the Imperial Hotel, Cork to commemorate Frederick Douglass' visit.
Within the Hawtin Collection is a Dublin printing of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. When I examine one of the Dublin printings of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave what can I learn? When I engage in object-based learning how can I use the other sources in Special Collections to find out more? Check out the gallery box on the right to see how I used the sources.
'G Bellew Binder Dublin' is blind-tooled on the bottom edges of the front and back binding.
The front endpapers have a Gillian Hawtin donation label indicating that this item is part of the Hawtin Collection. On the front endpapers there is also handwritten note 'Cork Library November 13th 1845' and 'Cork Library' is repeated in the same hand on the back endpapers.
The title page has publishing information: 'Dublin: Webb and Chapman, Gt. Brunswick-Street. 1845.'
On the title page verso is a note from the Meeting of the Committee of the Hibernian Anti-Slavery Society, held the 20th September 1845.
This printing of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave contains:
To commemorate Frederick Douglass' 200th birthday and as part of Black History month a worldwide Transcribe-a-thon of the Freedmen's Bureau Papers was coordinated by the Colored Conventions Project and the Smithsonian Archives on 14 February 2018. As he was born into bondage Douglass never knew when he was born and chose to celebrate his birthday on 14 February. Dr Donna Alexander, DARIAH Ireland Postdoctoral Researcher at UCC organised the Cork event.
Note: A transcribe-a-thon is a mass transcription of a particular set of resources in order to make them accessible to more users.