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News Americas, BELFAST, Ireland, Tues. Aug. 2, 2023: A historic moment in Belfast! The vibrant city on July 31st unveiled a life-size bronze statue dedicated to Frederick Douglass, the prominent black American anti-slavery activist. The occasion marked a tribute to a remarkable individual whose impact on the abolitionist movement and his fight against slavery continues to resonate with people worldwide.

Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass’s journey to freedom was a triumph against immense odds. Escaping the clutches of enslavement, he became one of the most prominent and influential abolitionists of the 19th century. Armed with a gift for public speaking, he traversed the country, enlightening people about the harsh realities of slavery and advocating for its abolishment. His incredible life story, narrated in his 1845 memoir, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” inspired countless individuals and ignited a powerful movement for justice and equality.

(left to right) Livingstone Thompson, Chair of the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland, Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy and Tukura Makoni, Policy Officer at African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland during the unveiling of the statue of anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass in Belfast. (Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images)

A deeply significant link connects Douglass to Belfast, Ireland. In the 1840s, he visited the city multiple times at the invitation of the Belfast Anti Slavery Society. It was during these visits that he developed an affection for the city, remarking in one of his speeches, “Whenever else I feel myself to be a stranger, I will remember I have a home in Belfast.” This love and connection between the activist and the city have now been immortalized through the grand unveiling of this awe-inspiring statue at Rosemary Street, near the very spot where he once addressed enthusiastic crowds in 1845.

The unveiling ceremony was graced by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, who described the event as a “positive news story for the city.” He emphasized that Frederick Douglass’s writings and values remain as relevant today as they were in the 19th century, as they continue to inspire and enlighten people on the principles of justice, equality, and human rights. The statue’s presence will undoubtedly help Belfast in welcoming more visitors, eager to learn about the city’s rich history and the global legacy of Frederick Douglass.

The statue stands as a powerful symbol of hope and progress, reminding everyone of the indomitable spirit of one man who rose above adversity to champion the rights of others. It was brought to life through the artistic vision of sculptors Alan Beattie Herriot and Hector Guest, whose dedication and talent ensured that the essence of Frederick Douglass’s mission was captured perfectly.

The event also witnessed the presence of students participating in the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship, such as Florence Onyiuke from the University of Pennsylvania. She eloquently described Mr. Douglass’s story as one of hope, a tale of turning one’s circumstances around to not only better oneself but also pave the way for others. His legacy of resilience and determination serves as an inspiration for generations to come. Also in attendance were Livingstone Thompson, Chair of the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland and Tukura Makoni, Policy Officer at African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland.

This occasion has not only honored Douglass, but has also shed light on the city’s own history. Belfast has been recognized as an “anti-slavery city,” where attempts to establish a slave ship company in 1786 were thwarted due to vehement opposition. The statue of Frederick Douglass serves as a reminder of the united history that binds us together as a global community, seeking justice, and striving for a better future.

As the first European city to pay tribute to Douglass with a statue, Belfast sets a powerful example of honoring influential figures who have shaped the course of history. This remarkable addition to Belfast’s cityscape will undoubtedly draw visitors from far and wide, eager to learn about the inspiring legacy of Frederick Douglass and the city’s commitment to progress and equality.

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