Readers' letters: Celebrating life of Frederick Douglass

“Douglass spent time in Edinburgh, where a plaque marks where he once lived at Gilmore Place”

Saturday, 31st July 2021, 12:00 am
Isaac Julien’s film installation, Lessons of the Hour, about the life of Frederick Douglass, will be shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Celebrating life of Frederick Douglass

I was delighted to see that the life of freed slave, Frederick Douglass, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery in 19th century Scotland will be celebrated in a new film at the Edinburgh Art Festival .

The ideas of Douglass – an escaped slave, orator, writer and statesman – were pivotal in the United States before, during and after the American Civil War. He is now widely regarded as one of the most important figures in efforts to end slavery in America.

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Douglass indeed spent time in Edinburgh, where a plaque now marks where he once lived at Gilmore Place while acting as Scotland’s anti-slavery agent.

He arrived in Scotland in 1846, eight years after escaping his brutal owner on a plantation in Maryland and found a city where he felt “no distinction” to those of a “paler hue” and where “no one seemed alarmed to his presence”.

Douglass was sent to Great Britain and Ireland on a speaking tour organised by the American-Anti-Slavery Society, to take advantage of strong anti-slavery sentiment at a time when the US lagged in efforts to wholly outlaw the trade.

On his tour Douglass spoke in towns and cities such as Arbroath, Paisley, Kelso and Glasgow, and demand to see his speeches was so high that tickets had to be issued. Douglass’s campaign was ramped up to a new level when he clashed with the Free Church of Scotland and was a key supporter of the “send back the money campaign”. This came after it emerged Free Church representatives had travelled to the American South in 1845 on a fundraising mission, with some slave-owners proving particularly supportive.

It is fantastic to see Frederick Douglass continuing to get the credit he deserves for his crucial role in tackling slavery.

Alex Orr, Marchmont Road, Edinburgh.

Cycling abuse

In the light of the prosecution and jailing of a cyclist who caused the death of a pedestrian by going through a red light and crashing into the crossing pedestrian, is it not time that the laws regarding bicycle use on our roads and pavements be enforced?

Or should we wait until some unfortunate pedestrian is killed on the roads or pavements of Edinburgh by a rogue cyclist?

This question also applies to the ever increasing numbers of illegal electric scooters which also contribute to making walking on our city pavements a place of potential danger.

Mr Clark, Lochend Park View, Edinburgh.

Westminster support

Leah Gunn Barrett raises valid points on child poverty and suggests Scottish independence would eliminate it (Letters, July 30). Only one way to find out.

On a larger scale she might consider that when the two Scottish banks got into difficulties in 2008, their combined liabilities were 30 times the GDP of Scotland. Westminster rescued them.

Similarly, financial support for Scotland during the Covid pandemic so far amounts to £2800 for every person in Scotland.

Could her independent Scotland have survived those two financial demands, one wonders.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.

Ferry good service

I am writing because of the stick Calmac has recently been receiving. Today I booked a ferry crossing from Ardrossan to Brodick in Arran and return for a car and two adults.

The booking on line was simple, helpful and efficient, and at £49.50 for the lot was a bargain, and I have to say I should, if I were their accountant, tell them up put up their prices!

Hamish McKenzie, Grange Loan, Edinburgh.