Frederick Douglass speaks

Event date(s)

3 August 1846


Frederick Douglass, one of the great antislavery activists, visited Tyneside in the first week of August, 1846 in the midst of his twenty-month trip around the United Kingdom. He gave three addresses in the area, one at an unknown location in Newcastle upon Tyne on 2 August; one in North Shields on 4 August; and one on 3 August at the Salem Methodist Church in Newcastle. The Newcastle Guardian reported his 3 August speech, which followed the major themes of many of his speeches during this period: the moral iniquity and inhumanity of slavery; its centrality to the American political, economic, and social system; the relationship between the American Christian church and slavery; the abolitionist movement in the United States and its relationship with the church; and his view that slavery was an evil that beset all mankind. ‘It is a system of such gigantic evil, so strong, so overwhelming in its power, that no one nation is equal to its removal. It requires the humanity of Christianity, the morality of the world, to remove it,’ he said in May during an address in London, demonstrating his understanding of the necessity of international action against slavery. He returned to Newcastle in December for two further speaking engagements.

Douglass travelled alongside the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison for considerable portions of this trip. In Newcastle he lodged with the noted Quakers Ellen and Anna Richardson, who were the driving forces behind the campaign to raise funds to purchase Douglass’s freedom from his owner, Hugh Auld. This process was itself not without controversy, for it indicated a certain pragmatism among abolitionists (including Douglass himself) and their willingness to engage in the trade in human lives. Nevertheless, the actions of the Richardsons demonstrate the importance of Tyneside in the personal history of one of the nineteenth century’s greatest figures.

Location/map point


Salem Methodist church
Hood Street

Further reading

Paul Giles, ‘Narrative Reversals and Power Exchanges: Frederick Douglass and British Culture’ American Literature 73 (2001); Benjamin Soskis, Heroic Exile: The Transatlantic Development of Frederick Douglass 1845-1847 at; Frederick Douglass, "American Slavery, American Religion, and the Free Church of Scotland: An Address Delivered in London, England, on May 22, 1846." At; Frederick Douglass, "Slavery As It Now Exists in the United States: An Address Delivered in Bristol, England on August 25, 1846." At; John R. McGiven (ed.), The Frederick Douglass Papers series I-IV (Yale University Press, various dates); Benjamin Quarles, Frederick Douglass (Associated Publishers, 1948); William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (Norton, 1991)