Sunday, October 20, 2013


Frederick Douglass was a passionate and highly articulate advocator of anti-Slavery who toured Britain for 2 years including many stops in Scotland.Though there are very few markers of his time , as opposed to the many landmarks and street names to The Slave Merchants , research has showed that he was recieved very warmly by grassroots Scottish organisations and public , including sell-out fundraisers attracting over 1200 to places as far awide as Paisley and Dundee.He also made appearances in Glasgow , packing large venues such as the City Halls.

Douglass achieved Fame on both sides of the Atlantic after the publication of his Book in 1845 , selling out the first run in just a few months and ultimately tens of thousands in the years prior to the American Civil War.

The video below details scholarly accounts into his Book and the Impact it had in his day and beyond.

One of the major themes of Douglass visits to Scotland was to lobby against the newly set-up Free Church of Scotland 
The new Church set about gaining new sources of funds including a major campaign to raise money in the US , mostly from Slavery supporting congregations in the Deep South , Douglass campaigned vigourously using the slogan "send the money back" as this speech in Dundee records:

  • "Dr. Chalmers, the eloquent Scotch divine, having been appealed to by the members of the Free Church of Scotland, on the subject of receiving contributions from churches in the slave states of America, to say whether religious fellowship could consistently be extended to slaveholding churches, the Doctor repudiates the spirit that would narrow the sphere of Christian union, and says, that the refusal of such fellowship would be 'most unjustifiable.'"
  • Fellowship with slaveholders! (continued Mr. D.)— refuse fellowship with man-stealers, woman-whippers, cradle-robbers, and plunderers!—to refuse Christian fellowship with such would be "most unjustifiable." (Applause.) Did they think Dr. Chalmers would ever have said this, if, like him, he had had four sisters and one brother in bondage? (Cheers, and cries of "No.") Would this paper have eulogised George Thompson or William Lloyd Garrison, or any other eminent abolitionist? (No, no!) Well, the slaves run away—the bloodhound has not been able to follow their tracks, and the paper which eulogises Dr. Chalmers thus advertises the fugitives
  • In the video below James Earl Jones reads an extract from a Douglass speech capturing the charisma , passion,content and power of delivery which captivated so much of the audience of the time.


    This excellent piece from the Blackpresence website tells more details of the impact of Douglass Tours. 
    The article also informs of some objections to Douglass within the abolitionist camp like the following quote:

    "Clearly, Frederick Douglass had a strong influence on British society, but this did not mean he was universally admired. His exposure of the Free Church and the Evangelical Alliance was criticised in numerous quarters, and several newspapers objected to his conduct, claiming he was “anti-religious” for attacking the Free Church. Furthermore, Douglass was not popular with all British abolitionists. Richard D. Webb, a supporter of the American Antislavery Society praised Douglass’s oratory skills but attacked his character repeatedly during his stay in Britain. And several abolitionists in the Society vilified Douglass’s decision to accept the purchase of his freedom, which was arranged by a family in Newcastle. This was seen as recognition that man could be bought and sold as property. But this purchase ensured the safety of Douglass and his family, and surely, argued Douglass, this ‘transaction’ proved to the world the hypocrisy of the United States – how could a country declare its foundations in liberty when the government legally supported the purchase of men and women?"
    The US made documentary below tells about the role of Douglass prior and during the American Civil War , including harrowing recollections of the young Frederick watching his Aunt being cruelly whipped by her slavemaster.

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