It’s been two years in the making.
A new historic walking trail launches today in Cork, tracing the footsteps of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who made a lasting impact on Leeside during his visit in 1845.
The 12-stop Cork Abolitionists Trail will be launched this morning by City and County officials, a direct descendant of Fredrick Douglass and star of the hit musical Hamilton, Paul Oakley Stovall, who is in town to research a television series about Douglass in Ireland.
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Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass would become a powerful leader in the anti-slavery movement in the United States in the 19th century.
He visited Ireland to build support for the abolitionist cause in America, and would spend a transformative month in Cork, delivering powerful denunciations of slavery to crowds of thousands.
The Cork Abolitionists Trail, created by #DouglassWeek and Cork City Council, weaves its way across Cork City and includes iconic local landmarks such as the City Courthouse where Douglass delivered a two-hour speech titled ‘I Am Here to Spread Light on American Slavery’.
The Imperial Hotel was the setting for Douglass’s ‘American Prejudice Against Colour’ speech on the afternoon of Thursday, October 23rd, 1845.
Douglass declared at the hotel “There is nothing slavery dislikes half so much as the light. It is a gigantic system of iniquity, that feeds and lives in darkness, and, like a tree with its roots turned to the sun, it perishes when exposed to the light.”
Cork ‘was a place so special to him’
A highlight of Douglass’s time in Cork was meeting Fr Mathew, the famed “Apostle of Temperance” whose statue bestrides St Patrick’s Street. While in Cork, Douglass stayed with the Unitarian Thomas Jennings and his family at Brown Street (now Paul Street).
No. 74 George’s street was the setting for Douglass’s final speech in the city. It also served as the weekly meeting place for the Cork Ladies Anti-Slavery Society.
Direct Frederick Douglass descendant and Co-Founder & President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. said “I am so excited to be traveling back to Ireland and especially to Cork, where my great ancestor found solace and friendship, and was a place so special to him. I know I’ll get emotional when retracing his footsteps on the same streets he trod over 175 years ago!”
A self-guided version of the current Trail will soon be available online and future plans also include the installation of physical markers to serve as points of reflection on the experience of abolitionists in Ireland.
Main image: Viva Media