Hannah Murray on Frederick Douglass, and why his time in Britain should be remembered

Posted on March 18, 2013 by

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A few weeks ago, I gave a lecture on Frederick Douglass, a former African American slave who travelled to Britain in the 1840s. I first came across Douglass at University (2008), and ever since I have been fascinated by the life and career of this social reformer. Unfortunately, his British travels have been largely forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic, and this needs to be rectified! Douglass created a sensation here, and his experiences show that American slavery had a strong impact on Britain. By reading contemporary newspapers, we can see what ordinary people thought of Douglass and the controversies he became involved in – the correspondent pages are littered with anecdotes and the editors are brutally honest in their support or condemnation of him.

The lecture went surprisingly well – many people expressed an interest in Douglass and were curious to know more about his experiences. As a result of this, I was invited to the unveiling of a heritage blue plaque to Douglass in February 2013, and was also asked to speak to the event. A slightly daunting prospect!

More than anything, I hope my research demonstrates that there can be a bridge between “traditional academic history” and public history”, or in fact, they are virtually the same thing! I’ve worked hard documenting the life of Douglass, and I want to disseminate this knowledge as much as I can. His life in Britain should be discussed not only in the university, but in the public too.

For more information, please see my website – https://sites.google.com/site/frederickdouglassinbritain/

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