I have a great poster which advertises Donal O’Kelly’s historical drama, The Cambria. It is based on Douglass’ voyage to Ireland, and incorporates extracts from Douglass’ Narrative. I have seen it several times, and each time I am delighted with the power of the script and the story behind it. Here is one review; enjoy.

Get to see it if you can.

Douglass in contemporary theatre.


I need constant reminders of the wider context of my work and this map was an apt reminder to stop and think about the areas involved in Douglass’ life and work.

I found this map in an email from that wonderful book shop, abebooks.com. who are currently running a promotion called:

Southern Discomfort:

Tumultuous Literature set in

the American South

Old Map of Southern States of America


When I first read Thoreau’s Walden Pond, I was fascinated by the railway track. I spent those classes wondering about it.

And when I took the opportunity to visit Walden, I checked this out. The railway runs beside the lake and Thoreau sited his cabin very close to both the lake and the railway track. It had always struck me as odd that on such a mission as this, Thoreau deliberately built his cabin near the track. Then he took the trouble to mention it in his account.

Any thoughts?

Walden Pond: where is that railway track?

Walden Pond: “That’s not a pond and I’m not walking around it!”


I returned home from my 2009 trip to the Frederick Douglass Papers at IU by way of Boston. As you would. Actually, I met John in Boston and we took a short break there. I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Concord and Walden Pond; as you would.

When I first read Walden Pond,the detail of the setting impressed me and I just wanted to see it. So, I dragged an oblivious John to, around and beyond Concord to Walden Pond.

When John saw the pond he said, very simply “That is not a pond, and I am not walking around it!!!”

 It is indeed a very large pond, yet it is none the less for that. I walked around it and loved every minute.

Photos fail to do justice to that pond or its setting.

There is a replica of Thoreau’s cabin at the entrance to the park; further on, the actual site of the cabin is marked out with accompanying notices. I visited and spent time at some of the spots associated with Henry David Thoreau.

It was a wonderful day.


I would have loved to hear  Frederick Douglass speak.

I wonder if any of our politicians or actors could do justice to his written words.

Of course, none could replicate his passion and he often spoke extemporaneously, which allowed him to mould his words to the atmosphere in the hall, or to mould the atmosphere to his words.

I have listened to several actors reciting Douglass, and Danny Glover is ok. Check out this youtube link: Danny Glover reads Frederick Douglass.

My Douglass work focuses on the younger Douglass, and I think that Will Smith’s voice and passion would best suit a Douglass speech.

Any thoughts?

Danny Glover or Will Smith?


Boston Common, 2 June, 2009 during "Reading Frederick Douglass", organised by Mass Humanities.

Sometimes, you can be in the right place at the right time. One such moment occurred on 2nd June, 2009; it was the last day of our Boston trip and John and I strolled through Boston Common. A group had gathered around the steps of the Shaw monument, in front of the State House. To the left, a poster announced the purpose of the gathering: to honour Frederick Douglass by way of a communal reading of one of his finest speeches: “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?”  This event formed part of a statewide event, “Reading Frederick Douglass” and was organized by Mass Humanities. The assembled group was invited to participate in the reading and impressed with the significance of this event, I asked to read an extract.

Here I am, reading from Douglass’ famous “Fourth of July”.

It was a thought-provoking experience: standing under the wonderful Shaw monument and the State Building; being part of a group who felt deeply about Douglass’ words and work. And then, to read some of those words as Douglass often did: standing on the steps of some public building, before a gathering of like-minded people. This was history in action, and one that gave a greater context to my own work and research.

I have inserted a piece from the Mass Humanities website, offering a comment on the event:

Reading Frederick Douglass – Project Kickoff Event

The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro                    

Frederick Douglass at  the Massachusetts State House

A communal reading of a masterful speech (see comments)

On June 2, 80-100 people, including a number of State legislators and senators, gathered next to the Shaw Memorial on the Boston Common to participate in a communal reading of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist masterpiece, The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro. It was a smashing success (even the rain held off) and the three children from New Bedford who spoke about Frederick Douglass did so with a passion and sincerity that held everyone in thrall. Photos at flickr.
This was the opening salvo in a statewide initiative. We are encouraging people and organizations from around the state to stage similar events this summer, as a way to kick off a statewide discussion in the context of all the Civil War commemorations to take place in the next few years (starting with Lincoln’s 200th birthday this year).

Our work in this was the creation of this “portable program,” a web resource that provides all one needs to organize an event: various edits of the speech (a 10,000 word tour de force), tips for organizersPR timelines and poster templates, text for submitting to online calendars, as well as background readings and a guide for discussion leaders

In front of the State Building, Boston.                                                                     


“What to a slave is the fourth of July?”


This article is taken from      .

Date: Friday, March 16, 2012, 5:47 am
By: Denise Stewart, BlackAmericaWeb.com

A mural of Frederick Douglass in West Belfast, Belfast, United Kingdom, is shown.

Parades and feasts in cities around the country are set for Saturday’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. And while wearing green and shamrocks are practices more familiar to whites and people of Irish decent, there was also a prominent African-American abolitionist who was greatly impacted by the Irish.

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.

“In Ireland, he saw the plight of the Irish at a time when the Great Famine was ,” he said. “At the time Douglass was there, I guess you could say the Irish were like the white Negroes of Europe. Many were impressed just by seeing an African-American of his stature traveling.”

In England, Douglass developed friendships with people who had worked toward the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, according to McClarin. In places such as Dublin, Ireland, he spoke to crowds at public gatherings about poor working conditions, the temperance movement and about slavery. All along the way, he was raising money to help with the abolitionist movement in America.

While in Ireland, Douglass met Daniel O’Connell, often called The Liberator or The Emancipator. O’Connell would inspire and encourage Douglass in his work.

Ireland was a place where Douglass spoke and was accepted, Madigan said. “He was not judged there by the color of his skin. He was accepted as a man.”

In his quest for information on Ireland and Douglass, Madigan has developed professional relationships with professors and researchers at University College Cork in Ireland, he said. He wants to host a conference in the future that will focus solely Douglass and his Irish experience.

Just in case you were wondering why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the first place, it celebrates the life of St. Patrick, who died March 17, 493 and is most prominently associated with bring Christianity to Ireland.

According to Irish myth, shamrocks are important because St. Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the Irish.