Solas Nua, an American arts company, is putting on a show to tell the story of Frederick Douglass’s trip to Ireland in 1845, which had a profound influence on him, as well as the comparisons between the Irish and African-American experience.
This year marks 200 years since Douglass’s birth, so it was only fitting for the rehearsal of the project to take place near the Anacostia River in Maryland, where Douglass had spent a great deal of time.
“Staging the piece on the water is also deeply symbolic, given his experience working in the shipyards in Baltimore and the journey he took across the Atlantic,” said Rex Daugherty, the artistic director of the show.
The production is called, “The Frederick Douglass Project”, which tells not only of his trip to Ireland but also his life story and how he became to be known as one of the most powerful and well-spoken abolitionists in American history.
Over 200 DC high school students saw The Frederick Douglass Project today at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Douglass's church. You can see TFDP in view of his home from a pier (with a tent) on the Anacostia tonight and over the weekend. TKTS at https://t.co/KXD7o44JTA pic.twitter.com/86l6qKADSq— Solas Nua (@Solasnuacht) May 17, 2018
When Douglass was in Ireland, he spent four months touring around the country and giving lectures where he went. The trip helped him to see the many parallels between both the African-American and Irish experiences, despite being separated by the Atlantic.
When he was in Ireland, Douglass had even received the chance to meet with Daniel O’Connell, the famous Irish leader and campaigner for Catholic emancipation, which inspired O’Connell to encourage Irish-Americans to support the African-American plight. Unfortunately, this call for solidarity was not received by Irish Americans who were more concerned about their own standing in US society amid fears about the opportunities of their own people.
Douglass, when speaking to an Irish woman from Cork as he was about to head back to the U.S., told her that Irish Americans were among those who have not treated African-Americans well. She told him, “Well then they’ve forgotten who they are.”
The project is a combination of two plays - Psalmayene 24’s An Eloquent Fugitive Slave Flees to Ireland, which tells the story of Douglass’s life before going to Ireland, and Kinahan’s Wild Notes, which is about his experience in Ireland. However, the piece is quite contemporary given that it deals with contemporary slavery in the form of sex-trafficking and other forms of economic exploitation that still take place today.