Frederick Douglass On Robert Burns

"A Fugitive Slave Visiting the Birth-Place of Robert Burns" (pdf)

frederick douglass

The newspaper article made available from this page documents the influence in America of the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), and specifically Burns’s influence among  African-Americans as a voice of liberty, equality, and brotherhood.  In the words of one of Burns’s later songs, “A man’s a man for a’ that”:

Then let us pray that come it may 
    (As come it will for a' that) . . . 
That man to man the world o'er 
   Shall brithers be for a' that.

Following his escape from slavery and publication of his bestselling autographical Narrative (1845), the American abolitionist author and orator Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) spent two years in Britain and Ireland, lecturing and building support for the abolition movement, and British supporters raised the money to purchase his freedom, so that he was legally emancipated.  In April 1846, Douglass visited the cottage where Burns had been born, at Alloway, near Ayr, in Scotland, sending this account of his visit to a sympathetic New York newspaper.   Reproduced here is Douglass’s article, taken from the full issue of the paper in the G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns & Scottish Poetry.

Frederick Douglass, “A Fugitive Slave Visiting the Birth-Place of Robert Burns,” in New York Weekly Tribune, vol. 5, no. 45 [cont. no. 253], (July 18, 1846).



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