“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