Frederick Douglass: Voice of Freedom

Display and Talk at Newton Free Library Highlight 19th Century Orator

Frederick Douglass inspired a generation of abolitionists in 19th century Newton, including members of the Jackson family, who owned the Jackson Homestead and made it a stop on the Underground Railroad. Learn more about Douglass’ extraordinary life and his connections to the local antislavery movement in Historic Newton’s display at the Newton Free Library and at a free talk by scholar John Stauffer of Harvard University on February 23.

Best known as an orator who spoke out against slavery and other human injustices, Frederick Douglass spent many formative years of his career in Massachusetts. After he freed himself from slavery and moved to New Bedford in 1838, he became closely associated with abolitionists in the Boston area, including Francis Jackson, who was born and raised in Newton. His first public speech on Nantucket launched his path to national fame.

After the Nantucket convention, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, whose president was Francis Jackson, hired Douglass as a lecturer. Douglass and his family moved to Lynn in 1841, which served as his home base as Douglass launched a 3,500 mile tour around the United States. Douglass resettled in Rochester, New York in 1847 and continued his career as a leading abolitionist in the 19th century.

“Frederick Douglass’ America,” a talk by Scott Reznick of Boston College on Thursday, February 23 at 7 p.m. at the Newton Free Library, explores how Douglass' influence continues. Part of the Newton History Series, the talk focuses on the significance of Douglass's "What to the Slave is the 4th of July" address, both at the time he delivered it in 1852, and how and why it continues to resonate today, including in the 2016 election. Douglass's speech contributed to his stature as one of the nation's greatest writers and orators, who converted countless readers and listeners to the antislavery cause.

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