A FAMOUS ABOLITIONIST
When I photographed this plaque back in May 2016 I was unaware of Frederick Douglass but for various reasons I encountered his name many times since but mainly because he was in Ireland at the beginning of the 1845 Famine.
In October 2013 Mayor of Waterford John Cummins unveiled the plaque on the facade of Waterford City Hall to commemorate the address by Douglass, a former slave who was one of the leading abolitionists of his day and an influence on the thinking of US president Abraham Lincoln.
Note: The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, began in 1845 when a mold [mould] known as Phytophthora infestans (or P. infestans) caused a destructive plant disease that spread rapidly throughout Ireland. The infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop that year, and about three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years.
Douglass’s friends and mentors feared that publicity at home would draw the attention of his ex-owner, Hugh Auld, who might try to get his “property” back. They encouraged Douglass to tour Ireland, as many former enslaved people had done. Douglass set sail on the Cambria for Liverpool, England, on August 16, 1845. He traveled in Ireland as the Great Famine was beginning.
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1817 or 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Accordingly, he was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counterexample to enslavers’ arguments that enslaved people lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been enslaved. It was in response to this disbelief that Douglass wrote his first autobiography.
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born enslaved on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, Maryland. The plantation was between Hillsboro and Cordova; his birthplace was likely his grandmother’s cabin east of Tappers Corner, and west of Tuckahoe Creek. In his first autobiography, Douglass stated: “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.” In successive autobiographies, he gave more precise estimates of when he was born, his final estimate being 1817. However, based on the extant records of Douglass’s former owner, Aaron Anthony, historian Dickson J. Preston determined that Douglass was born in February 1818. Though the exact date of his birth is unknown, he chose to celebrate February 14 as his birthday, remembering that his mother called him her “Little Valentine.”
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