Frederick Douglass

Justice and Progress Go Together


  • Geoff Palmer



Frederick Douglass, Black abolitionist, author, and statesman, was born into chattel slavery in the United States in 1818. Douglass’s antislavery activism inspired his sons to fight in the Civil War to end slavery in the nation (1861–1865). It also enabled him to meet other U.S. abolitionists such as James McCune Smith, the first Black American graduate in medicine (Glasgow University, 1837), as well as John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. Douglass arrived in Scotland in 1846, where he gave many lectures on the evils of chattel slavery and was aware of the roles politicians and the church played in maintaining this institution. He argued that if the Free Church of Scotland refused to help to abolish slavery in the United States, it should “Send Back The Money” that it acquired from slaveholding investors. A commemorative plaque to Frederick Douglass was unveiled in Edinburgh in November 2018. This article reflects on Frederick Douglass’s activism in Scotland and what it means for Scotland’s African diasporic residents.