CIEE Frederick Douglass Global Fellows Attend Unveiling of Frederick Douglass Statue in Belfast

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The 2023 cohort of Frederick Douglass Global Fellows were honored guests at the unveiling this week of the Frederick Douglass statue commissioned by the Belfast City Council and the Department for Communities and created by sculptors Alan Beattie Herriot and Hector Guest. Located in Belfast city center, the statue is the first in all of Europe to honor the American abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass.

The twelve 2023 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows are students of color from colleges and universities across the United States who were selected for this competitive award based on their demonstrated leadership and communication skills, their commitment to agitating for positive change using techniques of non-violence, and their history of meaningful service to others. The Fellows are currently in Northern Ireland as part of the final leg of their four-week, three-continent comparative study of social justice leadership that began in Washington D.C., took them to Cape Town, and is culminating with stops in Dublin, Derry, and Belfast

In an interview with the BBC, Florence Onyiuke, a Frederick Douglass Global Fellow from University of Pennsylvania, described Frederick Douglass as a "story of hope,” saying his legacy represents "this idea that you can take whatever circumstance that you are born into and make it better, not only for yourself but for the next person after you." 

Zoriana Martinez, a Fellow from Wayne State University, told the Independent that to her Douglass represents international camaraderie. “At the end of the day we all kind of want the same things. We all want to be taken seriously, we want to be treated like decent human beings, we all want to have access to equal opportunity, and that’s something that is still true today centuries later,” she said.

Two Frederick Douglass Global Fellows, Akil Cole from Georgetown University and Florence Onyiuke from University of Pennsylvania, spoke at a panel discussion hosted by the Belfast City Council that took place after the unveiling ceremony.

The Government of Ireland is cosponsoring the 2023 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows in honor of the meeting in Dublin in 1845 between 27-year-old abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the great Irish reformer Daniel O’Connell who is credited with influencing Douglass’ worldview and expanding his life’s work to agitate against all forms of social injustice. 

In commemoration of the unveiling of this historic monument to Frederick Douglass, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) is honored to co-publish with Don Mullan’s a little book company a special edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave. Written by Himself

Ireland was an important place for Frederick Douglass. Not only was Ireland the first nation outside of the United States to publish the original narrative in 1845, but it was also a place of refuge for Douglass, a place where he and his abolitionist message were warmly received. During his visit, Douglass spoke before audiences at First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street and at the Assembly Rooms, famously saying: “Wherever else I feel myself to be a stranger, I will remember I have a home in Belfast.” 

At the unveiling, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy said he was honored to be involved in recognizing Frederick Douglass’ impact on Belfast. "This will help people’s understanding of the positive, progressive role he played in the city’s early development,” he said.

While in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows are being led by Don Mullan, author of Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, and Dr. Christine Kinealy, a historian and Frederick Douglass scholar, both of whom have worked to draw attention to the deep significance of Douglass’s visit to Ireland.

“Remembering Douglass and the struggles that he endured to bring about positive change continues to provide a North Star for our troubled times,” said Dr. Christine Kinealy.

“Douglass’ campaign against social injustice has ongoing relevance to contemporary society,” said Don Mullan. “Events in the last 15 years have proved that the struggle for equality, inclusion, and social justice is far from over.” 

“The Frederick Douglass Global Fellows are tomorrow’s leaders and I’m glad they were here to celebrate the global impact of this historic leader in the campaign for social justice,” said James P. Pellow, President and CEO of CIEE. “This monument honoring Douglass serves as a reminder of how great leaders influence the leaders of future generations through their words and deeds.”