12/10/2018 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Frederick Douglass is to be the first black person to be recognised by the Historic Environment Scotland Commemorative Plaque scheme

cc735f19-b576-4564-98d8-ef860de71030

African American author and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass is to become the first black person to be recognised by the Historic Environment Scotland Commemorative Plaque scheme.

Coinciding with Black History Month and the 200th anniversary of his birth, Frederick Douglass is the first black person recognised - and the 56th plaque awarded - under the scheme since it began in 2012.
 
The plaque will be unveiled in a ceremony in November and affixed to a building at 33 Gilmore Place in Edinburgh. It was here that Douglass once lived as Scotland’s anti-slavery agent; organising many of his anti-slavery campaigns in Scotland and corresponding with black and white abolitionists.

Frederick Douglass

Born into southern slavery in Maryland, USA in 1818, Frederick Douglass survived the traumas and tragedies of life as an enslaved individual, bearing witness to his family being bought and sold on the auction block. In 1838, at barely 20 years of age, he risked life and limb to make his escape from US chattel slavery. Douglass went on to become a world-renowned author, orator, philosopher, activist, statesman and freedom fighter as he worked alongside his family members not only to end slavery, but support all campaigns for human rights and social justice.
 
In 1845, on the run as a "fugitive slave" after publishing his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave - in which he named and shamed his white slaveholders - he undertook a two year transatlantic sojourn to tell his story to audiences in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England.
 
In Scotland, Douglass visited numerous cities and towns including Glasgow, Arbroath, Ayr, Dundee, Falkirk, Fenwick, Greenock, Hawick, Kirkcaldy, Montrose, Paisley and Perth to inspire anti-slavery activism among his audiences by telling the "story of the slave."
Douglass played a leading role in the campaign against the Free Church of Scotland and its acceptance of donations from white US slaveholders, a protest movement he spearheaded with the slogan, "send back the blood-stained money!" As Douglass recalled, while he and his advocates may have failed in making them send back the money, they succeeded in enlightening the people of Scotland on the subject of American slavery.
 

Reaction to the news

 
Thomas Knowles, Head of Grants at HES, said: "The Frederick Douglass plaque is a worthy addition to our list of historic figures commemorated over the last six years. His story allows us to reflect on one of the darker chapters of our history, so we can recognise and learn about Scotland’s role in the 19th-century international slave trade.
 
"We recognise that traditional methods of commemoration have not always reflected the diversity of Scotland’s population, and have often overlooked the contribution of minority groups. We hope that this award, which sees the first black person to be honoured through the Commemorative Plaque Scheme, will be a step forward to redress this imbalance."
 
Celeste-Marie Bernier, a professor at Edinburgh University, has researched the life and works of Frederick Douglass and his family for two decades. Nominating Frederick Douglass for the plaque in recognition of his world-renowned fame as an inspirational author and activist, Professor Bernier said: "Born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, he was reborn in freedom as Frederick Douglass, taking his new surname from James Douglas in Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake.
 
"All his life, Frederick Douglass saw in James Douglas - one of the chief commanders during the Scottish Wars of Independence - a kindred spirit who was equally committed to the overthrow of tyranny, despotism and oppression. He dedicated his life to the conviction: “Right is of no sex, truth is of no color - God is the Father of Us All, and All We are Brethren."
 
HES is encouraging more inclusive nominations under future rounds of its Commemorative Plaque Scheme, to recognise people from all walks of life who have had an impact on Scotland’s history. Past nominees for the scheme have included artists, scientists, inventors, philanthropists, actors, engineers, explorers, suffragettes, poets, politicians, writers and architects.
 
The remaining 14 successful plaque nominations under the 2018 Commemorative Plaque Scheme will be announced over the coming months.
 
(image copyright Historic Environment Scotland)

News

12/10/2018 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Digital-first 2021 England and Wales census will ask new questions

The 2021 England and Wales will ask new questions and draw on 'additional sources of information', a new ...


A Street Near You WW1 site huge hit with historians & researchers

A new interactive First World War legacy project built in just one week has proved hugely popular after ...


WW1 heroes who never made it home for Christmas remembered in Tommy campaign

The Bring a Tommy Home for Christmas campaign invites families to remember overlooked heroes and benefit ...


New study shows direct relationship between ancient populations of North America and South America

An 'unprecedented study', with the participation of researchers from the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, ...


Other News

Landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70

European Parliamentarians and experts are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the landmark Universal ...


New report shows people are taking an increased pride in their regional identity

New research published today by FindMyPast explores the public's perception of the UK - and reveals which ...


New records reveal childbearing age for women born in different years

The average completed family size for women in England and Wales who reached the age of 45 in 2017 is the ...


The untold story of John Shakespeare - event with Professor Glyn Parry

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon is hosting an event with historian Professor Glyn ...