Radio 4 Programme Next Week on American Anti-Slavery Activist Frederick Douglass

Next Thursday’s edition of the Radio 4 show, In Our Time, is on the great 19th century American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The blurb for it in the Radio Times simply reads

The African-American social reformer (died 1895) is Melvyn Bragg’s subject for the week. With Celeste-Marie Bernier of Edinburgh University, Karen Salt of Nottingham University and Nicholas Guyatt of Cambridge University.

The programme’s on at 9.00 am on 11th June, 2020. I realise the show contains high levels of Bragg, but don’t let that put you off listening.

Douglass was one of the great figures of the anti-slavery agitation in both America and Britain. He was invited over here several times by British abolitionists. I think it’s Douglass, who wrote the ringing speech, ‘What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?’ This criticised the double standard of celebrating American independence on the one hand, with the rhetoric of escaping from British colonial slavery, while Black Americans remained in bondage.

I think there are several editions of his works and biographies of the great man still in print, and he’s certainly been included in anthologies of 19th century slave writing. Look round your local bookshop if you can, or check online if you’re interested in reading them.

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