Frederick DouglassAn Abolitionist Returns to Bristol
“I came here as a thing. I go back as a human being.”
– Frederick Douglass, Bristol 1847
From St. Paul’s to Clifton, via the Seven Stars, the Cathedral, City Hall and more, abolitionist Frederick Douglass is retracing the steps of his 1846–47 campaign trail.
Born into slavery in 1818, 11 years after the slave trade was outlawed in the U.K. but nearly 50 years before slavery itself was abolished in the U.S., Douglass bravely escaped and gained his freedom aged just 20. Having learned to read by stealth when a slave, he went on to agitate by any means necessary, stirring up support for the antislavery movement with his charismatic orations and raising funds for this work during his tours of Europe. It was these tours that brought him to Bristol.
Today, icons of film, theatre, politics and religion will celebrate his bicentenary, marching the streets of Bristol to deliver extracts from his rousing speeches on abolition, suffrage, equality and more, interwoven with contemporary references – his words as pertinent now as they were then.
The unquiet ghost of Frederick Douglass, forward-thinking political reformer and powerful agent of change, is alive in the city, and urging us to ask the question: who are our unsung heroes of change today?
During the course of the day, the spirit of Frederick Douglass will appear in the persons of:
Kwame Kwei-Armah Artistic Director of the Young Vic
Vanessa Kissule Bristol City Poet
Danny Sapani Actor (Misfits, The Crown, Black Panther)
Rose Hudson-Wilkin Chaplain to the Queen
Marvin Rees Mayor of Bristol
Carleen Anderson Singer-songwriter
The Frederick Douglass Project is part of our Year of Change programme, and emerged from conversations between Bristol Old Vic, Colston Hall and Bristol-based writer and historian Dr. Edson Burton, in search of a project that could meaningfully form an annual commemoration of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its legacy. Edson Burton is adapting Frederick Douglass’ words for this event.
8.15am Alfred Fagon Statue, Kwame Kwei-Armah (1)
10am The Seven Stars Public House, Vanessa Kisuule (2)
10.30am Queen Square (3)
11am Marsh Street, Danny Sapani (4)
12pm Inside Bristol Cathedral, Rose Hudson-Wilkin (5)
1pm Outside City Hall, Marvin Rees (6)
2pm Wills Memorial Building, Kwame Kwei-Armah and Carleen Anderson (7)
If you would like to join the campaign trail from beginning to end, please register with Eventbrite. Alternatively, feel free to dip in and out throughout the day.