Location: City Hall, The Mall
Fredrick Douglass (1818-1895) is renowned as a nineteenth century equality and anti-slavery campaigner. During his tour of Ireland, Douglass spoke in the Large Room, City Hall, on the evening of Thursday 9th October 1845.
On Monday 7th October 2013 the Mayor of Waterford unveiled a Blue Plaque on the façade of Waterford City Hall to commemorate the visit to Waterford City of Frederick Douglass in October 1845.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), was a former slave, abolitionist and human rights activist. He visited Ireland and Britain for an extended lecture tour during 1845-47. During his time in Ireland, he met and befriended Daniel O’Connell (himself a convinced abolitionist), who was to prove to be a great inspiration in his later career.
During his tour of Ireland, Douglass spoke in the Large Room, City hall, on the evening of Thursday the 9th of October 1845. It appears that he arrived in Waterford from Wexford on the 8th of October, and left for Cork that day after his speech. Unfortunately, the details of his speech in Waterford and its reception are scant. However, a local newspaper recorded that the attendance at the meeting was “both numerous and respectable…” and that “the cause he so ably advocates deserves the support of every friend to humanity…”
In later years, Douglass credited his visit to Ireland, and especially his contacts with O’Connell, with broadening his political position from campaigning for the end of slavery to campaigning for freedom for all, equality and an end to poverty – “…the greatest enemy…”. This link between O’Connell and Douglass was explicitly referred to by President Obama in his speech in College Green, Dublin on the 23rd of May 2011 – “…Frederick Douglass, and escaped slave, and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin, with your great liberator, Daniel O’Connell. His time here [in Ireland], Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as a colour, but as a man, and it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home to wage.
After returning to the US, Douglass subsequently had a long and distinguished career as a writer, speaker, civil rights campaigner, presidential adviser, and diplomat. He died in Washington DC on the 20th of February 1895, and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York; the city which had been his home for twenty-five years.
Douglass is a very highly regarded and respected figure in the United States, frequently appearing on lists of greatest Americans. A bust of him is to be erected within the US Capitol building.
‘A Book on the Black O’Connell’ was published in 2014, and it gives an account of his time in Ireland.