Hamilton actor helps launch Cork walking trail set in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass

The Cork Abolitionists Trail follows on from Douglass Week in February in marking the 1845 Cork visit of the US anti-slavery campaigner
Hamilton actor helps launch Cork walking trail set in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass

Paul Oakley Stovall, actor and activist, star of the musical Hamilton, pictured at Nano Nagle Place in February for Douglass Week. Pic: Clare Keogh.

A new historic walking trail launches in Cork City this morning - following in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist who visited Cork in 1845, including a number of speaking engagements to outline the effect of slavery on American society to the Irish, then journeying to America in vast numbers as the Famine began to take hold.

The 12-stop route will be launched this morning by City and County officials, as well as Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., Douglass' direct descendant, and Paul Oakley Stovall, a star of the hit musical Hamilton, researching a documentary on Douglass' Irish visit for American television.

Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass would become a powerful leader in the anti-slavery movement in the United States in the 19th century. 

He visited Ireland in 1845 to build support for the abolitionist cause in America, and would spend a month in Cork, en route to a wider impact on American history, that's only come to be fully recognised in recent times.

The Cork Abolitionists Trail: highlights historic points of interest around the city pertaining to Frederick Douglass' tour of Cork in 1845
The Cork Abolitionists Trail: highlights historic points of interest around the city pertaining to Frederick Douglass' tour of Cork in 1845

The trail, created by UCC's #DouglassWeek team and Cork City Council, includes landmarks like City Courthouse where Douglass delivered a two-hour speech titled "I Am Here to Spread Light on American Slavery", and the Imperial Hotel, where he delivered the "American Prejudice Against Colour" speech on the afternoon of Thursday, 23rd October, 1845. 

“There is nothing slavery dislikes half so much as the light," Douglass declared at the event. 

"It is a gigantic system of iniquity, that feeds and lives in darkness, and, like a tree with its roots turned to the sun, it perishes when exposed to the light."

Direct descendant, and co-founder & President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. says: “I am so excited to be traveling back to Ireland and especially to Cork, where my great ancestor found solace and friendship, and was a place so special to him. 

"I know I’ll get emotional when retracing his footsteps on the same streets he trod over 175 years ago.” 

Frederick Douglass: US anti-slavery campaigner visited Cork in 1845 to inform emigrating Irish of common struggles against oppression
Frederick Douglass: US anti-slavery campaigner visited Cork in 1845 to inform emigrating Irish of common struggles against oppression

Actor Paul Oakley Stovall said: "The Cork Abolitionists Trail is a key element in sustaining the memory of this historical giant. It’s also an inspiration in the continuing development of my series about Douglass’s time in Ireland. 

"My research has led me thus far to Belfast, Limerick, and Dublin of course, but it’s a particular thrill to be back in Cork with the #DouglassWeek team, and having Ken Morris join us is a dream come true.”

The current trail will soon be available online as a self-guided tour, and future plans also include the installation of physical markers to serve as points of reflection on the experience of abolitionists in Ireland.

More information on Frederick Douglass and the walking trail can be found on www.douglassincork.com.

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