News and Views

New historic walking trail for Cork city

23 Jul 2021
A new historic walking trail “The Cork Abolitionists Trail” was launched in Cork City this week- in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist who visited Cork in 1845. Kenneth B. Morris, great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass along with Paul Oakley Stovall, a star of the hit musical Hamilton, researching a documentary on Douglass' Irish visit for American television and Frederick Douglass Global Fellows visited University College Cork today Friday 23rd July. Photo By Tomas Tyner, UCC.

A new historic walking trail – “The Cork Abolitionists Trail”- launches this week in Cork. The trail across the city has been created to trace the footsteps of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass who visited Cork in 1845, and the 12-stop route has been launched by City and County officials, a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass, and a star of the hit musical Hamilton.  

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 transformative month in Cork, delivering powerful denunciations of slavery to crowds of thousands. This inspiring social reformer, freedom fighter, statesman, orator and writer had a decisive impact on America’s path to abolishing slavery and his contribution to American history is now being fully recognised.  

 “I Am Here to Spread Light on American Slavery”

The Cork Abolitionists Trail”, created by #DouglassWeek and Cork City Council, weaves its way across Cork City and includes iconic local landmarks such as the City Courthouse where Douglass delivered a two-hour speech titled “I Am Here to Spread Light on American Slavery”. 

The Imperial Hotel was the setting for Douglass’s ‘American Prejudice Against Colour’ speech on the afternoon of Thursday, 23rd October, 1845.  Douglass declared at the hotel “There is nothing slavery dislikes half so much as the light. 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.” 

A highlight of Douglass’s time in Cork was meeting Fr Mathew, the famed “Apostle of Temperance” whose statue bestrides St Patrick’s Street. While in Cork, Douglass stayed with the Unitarian Thomas Jennings and his family at Brown Street (now Paul Street). 74 George’s street was the setting for Douglass’s final speech in the city. It also served as the weekly meeting place for the Cork Ladies Anti-Slavery Society. 

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

A legacy project of the highly successful #DouglassWeek

The Cork Abolitionists Trail is a legacy project of the highly successful #DouglassWeek which took place in February 2021. While Douglass was the best-known abolitionist to visit Cork, he was part of a tradition involving many other abolitionists who made the journey before and after him. The Cork Abolitionists Trail, is part of the Journeys for Freedom Project will highlight locations visited by these extraordinary women and men and amplify their stories and those of the Irish people and organisations that inspired them.  

The Cork Abolitionists Trail was developed by #DouglassWeek team members Dr. Caroline Schroeter, Dr. Laurence Fenton, Dr. Adrian Mulligan, Kristin Leary, Dr. Groenland, Dr. Hannah-Rose Murray and Sarah McCreedy, with beautiful graphics and design by Dan O’Connell, and is a legacy project of #DouglassWeek. "The trail has been a labour of love for our amazing team" stated Dr Caroline Schroeter.

The inaugural #DouglassWeek commemoration took place in February 2021. The week-long celebration and examination of Douglass’s 1845 visit to Cork was based in Cork, but held online due to COVID-19 restrictions. Participants included students and researchers, historians, artists, musicians, poets, authors, singers, activists and community groups responding to the story of Douglass and other abolitionists in Ireland and the impact of that history on contemporary events. #DouglassWeek 2022 will be held 10-15 February 2022 in Washington, DC. 

Great-Great Grandson of Frederick Douglass 

The Trail route was launched at the Frederick Douglass Mural in Cork City by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Colm Kelleher, and Cork City Council Chief Executive Ann Doherty. A great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass, Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. will also be in attendance, as will American actor Paul Oakley Stovall (Tony-Award-winning musical Hamilton), who is in Ireland to research a television series about Douglass in Ireland. 

A guided walk of the trail will occur and will be led by the author of Frederick Douglass in Ireland, Dr. Laurence Fenton. A group of twenty “Frederick Douglass Global Fellows,” American university students of colour visiting Ireland on a four-week study and leadership development program, hosted by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), were in attendance, as well as staff from University College Cork (UCC). 

Direct Frederick Douglass descendant and Co-Founder & President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. said “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."

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF