Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Barack Obama to unveil Frederick Douglass statue in Cork in May?

Frederick Douglass,  1818 – 1895

There's talk of President Obama coming to Cork in May to unveil a statue of  Frederick Douglass.  No I hadn't heard of him either, but by one of life's little coincidences an article about Frederick Douglass by a cousin of mine appeared in the New York Times last month. More of this later. 

A memorial lecture at UCC has also been mentioned as part of Obama’s visit, see Irish Examiner 19th March. The reference is vague and so far I haven’t tracked down any hard information. The likely date for Obama's arrival in Ireland seems to be 21st May. If so it will be Cork on 22nd or 23rd I suppose.  

Frederick Douglass was born a slave but escaped to become an anti-slavery activist. He was a considerable orator and journalist. He influenced Abraham Lincoln to make abolishing slavery a war-aim of the Civil War. He is one of Barack Obama’s heroes. During a two-year lecture tour of the British Isles he met Daniel O’Connell, the great Irish nationalist, known as The Liberator. The reason for his voyage to Europe was partly to elude slave catchers who were incensed at his success at enthralling audiences and raising funds for the emancipation campaign.

In 1845 he said : "Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

Here's Tom Chaffin’s New York Times article.  I went too far just now when I called Tom my cousin, he's actually married to my Swedish cousin Meta.

And here's a video entitled "President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House as they host a St. Patrick’s Day reception". It’s of interest for two reasons.  At 24:55 Obama mentions Frederick Douglass and clearly bases his remarks closely on Tom’s article.  The other thing is that Enda Kenny isn't listening.

I've got something else to say that arises out of the Frederick Douglass story but I'll leave that to another day.

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