Douglass and O'Connell: An Unlikely Friendship: Background information when reading TransAtlantic

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A Novel

by Colum McCann

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  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 320 pages
    May 2014, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Beyond the Book:
Douglass and O'Connell: An Unlikely Friendship

One of the historical events that frames TransAtlantic is Frederick Douglass's visit to Ireland. Douglass was an escaped slave and later became a champion abolitionist. In late 1845, he visited Ireland as part of a two-year lecture tour through Ireland, Scotland and England. Douglass had escaped seven years earlier and had published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. As Douglass traveled through Ireland, through Belfast, Cork and Dublin, he was greeted enthusiastically.

Daniel O'ConnellIt was in Ireland that he met Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847), who brought an important Catholic voice to the Irish opposition to slavery. Even though the two shared the stage only very briefly, during a September 1845 rally in Dublin, the meeting would serve as inspiration for Douglass who is said to have remarked that O'Connell's "voice made American slavery shake to its center." That visit helped Douglass frame the contagion of slavery against a larger point of ...

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