BRISTOL celebrated the life of the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass with city-wide events on Monday, including an address by the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. Douglass escaped slavery, and later toured Britain campaigning for the abolition of slavery; he came to Bristol in 1846.
Monday’s event, “Frederick Douglass: An Abolitionist Returns to Bristol”, was a historic tour of the city, with crowds travelling to significant sites associated with the Transatlantic slave trade and black presence, including City Hall, Queen Square, and the Wills Memorial Building. It was devised by the writer and historian Dr Edson Burton, in association with Bristol Old Vic and Colston Hall.
Bristol, along with Liverpool, was one of the British cities to benefit from the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of its landmarks, including Colston Hall and Colston Tower, are named after Edward Colston, a philanthropist who made his wealth through the slave trade.
Jon CraigPrebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin
Along the route of the event, speakers including the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, and the artistic director of the Young Vic, Kwame Kwei-Armah, performed pieces inspired by Douglass’s speeches and writings.
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin, the most senior black female cleric in the Church of England, spoke in Bristol Cathedral using Douglass’s words that highlighted religious hypocrisy. “Age, scale, and detail have given this temple gravitas. Under its vaulting roof, in this pulpit inhabited for centuries by those better qualified than myself, I should be humbled to speak.
“In this great temple, at every turn I see honoured those who I cannot count as good Christians. Men who benefited from the trade in flesh, and yet thought themselves godly, as if just works outweighed the monumental evil in which they were invested.”
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin ended by quoting Douglass: “Ministers, let no one ask of you: where is the example of God’s love? Where is the practice of true Christianity? Be sure that you practise the religion of love.”
Jon CraigJon Craig