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Reformer Frederick Douglass Spoke in New Hampshire

First Port City lecture

His reception in Portsmouth in December 1844 was apparently warmer when he addressed the Portsmouth Female Anti-Slavery Society. There appears to be no mention of the visit in local newspapers, only a brief notation in the young orator's extensive travel logs. The following year Douglass published the first of many editions of his explosive autobiography. In it, he named his Maryland “owner,” thus exposing himself as a fugitive slave. In 1846 he fled to the United Kingdom where he lectured continuously, shedding light on the true nature of the heinous practice he called “American Slavery.”

“The slaveholders want total darkness on the subject,” he told enthusiastic British audiences. “Expose slavery and it dies. Light is to slavery as to what the heat of the sun is to the root of the tree.

Douglass devoted his life to exposing slavery and agitating for equality for blacks, through his lectures, his books, and as editor of two abolitionist newspapers. Mockery, harassment, and threats of death did not slow his mission.


Back to New Hampshire

America was in the thick of its gruesome Civil War when Douglass returned to Portsmouth on March 15, 1862. He spoke this time at the 1,000-seat Portsmouth Lyceum, known as “The Temple” on the site of today’s Portsmouth Music Hall. By this time Douglass was a free man, well known for his fiery impassioned rhetoric and as publisher of the anti-slavery North Star newspaper. He was a confidante of President Abraham Lincoln, who often wavered on his convictions toward emancipation, fearing the impact of civil rights on the wounded nation.

Douglass advocated the use of black soldiers in the war. A year after his Portsmouth appearance, he became a recruiter for the now-famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment for blacks, while two of his own sons served in the bloody conflict.


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Friday, February 23, 2018 
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