Statue of anti-slavery activist for Belfast city centre approved

The statue of an American anti-slavery activist received a last-minute anonymous objection, but it will commence three years after the proposal was made.

Statue of anti-slavery activist for Belfast city centre approved.

A statue of Frederick Douglass planned for Belfast city centre, a prominent black American who was an anti-slavery activist and abolitionist during the 1800s, is to go ahead after receiving approval from Belfast City Council.

A late anonymous objection was made to the Council regarding the statue, which raised a number of issues. These issues have since been corrected, and the statue will be erected.

Who was Frederick Douglass? – prominent abolitionist

Who was Frederick Douglass?

Frederick Douglass was born in February 1817 or 1818 and was a former slave before escaping from Maryland. He later became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York.

Douglass penned a number of autobiographies during his lifetime, the most famous of which was his first – Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. He wrote a number of books and speeches despite his lack of formal education.

Douglass also wrote The North Star, an abolitionist newsletter, and was an active supporter of women’s rights, including a woman’s right to vote.

Frederick Douglass and Belfast – links to the city

The links to Belfast.
Credit: pexels/ Faheem Jackson

During his career, Douglass also visited Ireland when the country was heading towards the Great Famine in the 1840s. He met with Irish nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell.

Douglass visited the city of Belfast in 1845 at the invitation of the Belfast Anti-Slavery Society and again in 1846. It is believed that Douglass provided 11 lectures during his four weeks in Belfast in 1845.

One of his speeches was made in the Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, which is close to the location where the statue is now to be erected.

Where will the statue be? – a new landmark for the city

Statue of anti-slavery activist for Belfast city centre approved on Lombard Street.

The statue of Frederick Douglass is intended to be placed on an existing planter in Lombard Street, Belfast city centre.

The original proposal was brought by Sinn Féin, and the sculpture will measure 2.43 m (8 ft) in height and will be cast in bronze. It will be a dark brown colour.

Lombard Street is a largely pedestrian side street, and the statue will closely face Caffe Nero and stand between the Monico Bars pub and the aforementioned Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church.

The project is funded by the Belfast City Council and the Department for Communities.

In September 2022, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey spoke about the sculpture, “The statue will be a lasting tribute to this prolific slavery abolitionist and in doing so will serve as an inspiration”.

While an installation date is still to be confirmed, it is anticipated the statue will be erected in Belfast city centre by the summer.

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