Open Book and Frederick Douglass

On 28 May Celeste-Marie Bernier, Professor of United States and Atlantic Studies at Edinburgh University, and Nick Batho, who is studying for a PhD at the University, braved the rain to give Open Book members a walking tour of some of the places associated with the notable former slave Frederick Douglass during his 3 visits to Edinburgh between 1846 and 1882. We saw where Mr Douglass gave a speech which so impressed journalists of the time that they started reporting his speeches instead of those of white abolitionists. During a very entertaining tour we learned that Mr Douglass and his supporters in Edinburgh painted red the stoops of slave owners in Edinburgh, and other Scottish towns; and how they challenged the Church of Scotland and Wee Frees not to take donations from slave owners by cutting “Send the money back” into Salisbury Crags. We also heard of Jesse Glasgow Jr. a brilliant black student from America who studied at Edinburgh University; and Ida B. Wells-Barnett who came to Scotland to raise awareness of the lynchings in the Southern States of the United States after the abolition of slavery in the years following the Emancipation Proclamations. You can find out more about black anti-slavery activists in Edinburgh during the late 1800s at



Before the tour the members of the Open Book group at the National Library had enjoyed learning about Frederick Douglass during his bicententary. At our drop in sessions at the National Library on Tuesdays at 10:30am we had read some chapters of Mr Douglass’s autobiography, excerpts from one of his famous speeches and visited the exhibition about Frederick Douglass at the National Library of Scotland when Professor Bernier also gave the group a talk about Mr Douglass.


by Lesley Mure