Take a live tour of the exhibit in Ireland dedicated to Frederick Douglass
In 2018, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University hosted a special year-long exhibit in the Lender Special Collection Room at the Arnold Bernhard Library on the Mount Carmel Campus dedicated to American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman Frederick Douglass.
“Frederick Douglass in Ireland: ‘The Black O’Connell’” traces the time that the former slave spent in Ireland, exploring how he came to playfully refer to himself as “The Black O’Connell,” comparing himself to the great Irish Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell, after which Dublin’s O’Connell St. is named.
The below video was live-streamed on IrishCentral's Facebook page Monday, July 9, 2018:
Live tour of "Fredrick Douglass in Ireland: 'The Black O'Connell'" at with Professor Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University.Posted by IrishCentral.com on Dé Luain 9 Iúil 2018
Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass escaped at the age of 20, traveling north. where he quickly established himself as a talented speaker and writer.
To avoid being captured and returned to slavery, he traveled to Europe, spending the first four months of his exile in Ireland and returning there three more times in 1846. Douglass described his time in Ireland as “transformative” and as “the happiest days of my life.” In 1847, he returned to America, his freedom having been “purchased” by female abolitionists.
“Both Douglass and O’Connell are towering figures in the struggle for civil rights throughout the world,” said Christine Kinealy, a history professor and founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute.
“Their contributions to social justice transcend time and place, religion and race. Their special relationship and mutual respect remain inspirational today. The institute, working with colleagues at Quinnipiac, is delighted that it can help to bring this story to a new generation.”
The “Frederick Douglass in Ireland: ‘The Black O’Connell’” exhibition explores the time Douglass spent in Ireland in 1845–46 and the impact the country had on his personal and political development.
A highlight of his stay was meeting his hero, the Irish nationalist, and abolitionist, Daniel O’Connell. It was while speaking in front of O’Connell that Douglass made an impassioned plea for his enslaved people to find their own “Black O’Connell.” Throughout his life, Douglass would playfully refer to himself in this way.
*Originally published in 2018, updated in June 2020.