By Lisa Vives
A statue of anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass is now on display in Belfast city center—“amongst the people he loved.”
Douglass gave around 50 speeches in his time in Ireland and could speak for up to two hours without notes.
Professor Christine Kinealy, director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac in Connecticut, said the statue was a homecoming for Douglass, who often expressed his love for the city.
“Frederick Douglass is increasingly a symbol of international social justice,” she said.
“This is something that’s very dear to many people within Belfast, so I hope this place becomes a rallying point for people who want to effect real change and to have a more inclusive, equitable future for all people of Ireland.”
Douglass first visited Belfast in 1845 at the invitation of the Belfast Anti-Slavery Society and returned for a second visit in 1846.
“I think the most beautiful thing is that when he was leaving Belfast, he said: ‘Wherever else I feel myself to be a stranger, I will always know I have a home in Belfast.’
“And to me that’s what today represents, Frederick Douglass finally coming home to Belfast to be amongst the people he loved.”
Some 12 students from the US attended the unveiling as part of their work with the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship, a program that studies social justice leadership in America, South Africa and Ireland.
“We’re able to remember him for his work,” said fellowship student Akil Cole from Georgetown University, “but I think more importantly, there are people that actually still care about his work, about social justice, about equity, about access to rights, not just in a historical sense, but in a very present sense.