African-American anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglas came to Ireland in 1845 to deliver lectures around the country.

Douglass honoured on Leeside

In the autumn of 1845, a young and charismatic African-American abolitionist crossed the Atlantic Ocean to embark upon a four month lecture tour of Ireland.

That man was anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass, a former slave and leader in the movement to end slavery in the United States in the 19th century.

During his time on Irish soil, Douglass lectured to large and enthusiastic audiences in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Belfast.

To commemorate this historic visit, UCC academics, in collaboration with students, artists, writers and community groups around Ireland, have launched #DouglassWeek 2021.

The week, which runs until Sunday, will see a host of online events, performances and lectures highlighting the experiences of Douglass and other prominent abolitionists while exploring issues like identity, migration and race in contemporary Ireland.

Participating in this year’s event is Chicago activist and artist Paul Oakley Stovall who played George Washington in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit Broadway musical 'Hamilton'.

Stovall is currently in Ireland working on a new musical series based on Douglass’ time in the country. Speaking on a UCC podcast, Stovall, joined by ‘Hamilton’ castmate Nikhil Saboo, said he hopes a production such as 'Hamilton' would significantly change how Broadway tells the stories of people of colour.

“The big hope was that a show like 'Hamilton' would completely transform Broadway and that musicals would be very equitable in their casting of brown people,” he said.

Discussing the backlash 'Hamilton' received in some quarters for casting minority actors as white historical figures, Stovall said he believes his Douglass musical may draw attention due to the manner in which he plans to platform the strong women of the era who have been sidelined by history.

“Frederick couldn't have done any of it without Isabelle Jennings, Hannah Webb, Mary Ann McCracken, Rebecca Fisher, and Susanna Fisher. It was the women in Ireland who were running the abolition and anti-slavery groups. It just wouldn't have happened without them. So maybe the backlash will be that people will find it so, so hard to believe that women in the 1800s were running things,” he said.

During the podcast, which is available at, Stovall outlined how his vision for the production will look to tell more than what was recorded of the visit and tap into what he believes Douglass was feeling as an African-American in 1845s Ireland.

“We have a lot of lovely, lovely, giving, passionate historians who want to help me, but they all come at it with ‘this history book says that Frederick would have felt this way’. So when you're digging into history, there's only so much digging you can do and you have to, I don't even want to say fictionalise, I want to say, fantasticize. You have to take a big artistic swing at what you know is true in your heart of what it must have been like for him, and you have to take a chance and write those words,” he said.

Douglass Week 2021 is an entirely free online event and a full schedule can be found at

The week ends on Sunday with closing event Our Strong Women featuring former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, Douglass descendant Nettie Washington Douglass and Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu.