Fun St. Patrick's Day fact: Frederick Douglass didn't exactly have Irish heritage, but he definitely had some close ties to the country that made a "tremendous impact on his life and work." That relationship is being unpacked today at a conference at John Fisher College in New York as the school launches its Irish-studies department.
When Frederick Douglass placed himself in exile in 1845, he went abroad for two years, spending about three to four months in Ireland. He had written a narrative of his life as a slave, and he feared for his safety. In Ireland, Douglass traveled around the country speaking to crowds and developing relationships with Irishmen who opposed slavery and would support him upon his return to the states.
Today, in Rochester, N.Y., where Douglass spent about 25 years of his life, St. John Fisher College will hold a conference launching its new Irish Studies Department, and Douglass' life will be the topic of one of the presentations.
"Our library has some original copies of the newspapers Douglass produced in Rochester upon his return," Dr. Timothy P. Madigan, an assistant professor at St. John Fisher College and director of the institution's new Irish Studies Program, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "I'm no scholar on Frederick Douglass, but the more I learn about him, the more fascinated I am and the more I want to know."
Douglass, a well-spoken orator who challenged the conditions of slavery, is still popular among visitors to his home site in Washington, D.C., said Kamal McClarin, curator at Cedar Hill. Each year, thousands of people — school children, teachers, scholars and more — make their way to Douglass' home.
Some of the visitors are aware of Douglass' Irish experience; others are not, said McClarin. He has studied Douglass in-depth and is proud to share information about the abolitionist, author and journalist who also was an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln.
"Frederick Douglass' time in Ireland had a tremendous impact on his life and his work here," McClarin told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Read more at BlackAmericaWeb.