Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Figures From Politics, Religion, Stage And Screen Commemorate 200th Birthday Of Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

Figures From Politics, Religion, Stage And Screen Commemorate 200th Birthday Of Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Danny Sapani, Vanessa Kisuule and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees to perform in a celebration of the life of Frederick Douglass, born 200 years ago this year.

In 1846, the African-American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass came to Bristol. A man of exceptional vision and charismatic power, he electrified the city and the country, galvanising the cause of equality and abolition by sharing his own experience of slavery and his vision for the future.

In celebration of the bicentenary of his birth, the spirit of Frederick Douglass returns to Bristol on the 28 May to commemorate his historic tour of Bristol, with the help of key figures from the worlds of film, theatre, politics and religion. They will be performing pieces inspired by the extensive speeches and writings he produced over a life's work in search of equality; encouraging us to ask the question: Who are your unsung heroes of change?

Beginning at the statue of Alfred Fagon in St Pauls, this free event will take place across the city, traveling to significant sites associated with the transatlantic slave trade and black presence in Bristol, including Marsh Street, City Hall and Bristol Cathedral. Adapted extracts from Douglass' speeches will cover topics as wide ranging as religious hypocrisy, abolition, suffrage and his own struggle for acceptance, interwoven with contemporary references - his words as pertinent now as they were then.

Throughout the course of the day, the spirit of Frederick Douglass will appear in the persons of:

Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin is the most senior black female cleric in the Church of England. Appointed chaplain to the Queen in 2007 and chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons in 2010, she is a pioneering figure for women and people of colour who wish to serve and is a critic of what she has described as institutional forms of racism in the Church.

Kwame Kwei Armah is the Artistic Director of London's Young Vic and is the first African-Caribbean director to run a major British theatre. A writer, director and performer, he previously ran Baltimore's Centre Stage theatre, as the only black, male artistic director within America's top 100 theatres. He is a powerful voice against inequality, and in 2005 became only the second black British playwright to have his work performed in the West End. He returns to Bristol where he held the role of writer in residence at Bristol Old Vic (1999-2000)

Marvin Rees was elected as Mayor of Bristol in 2016, becoming the first European City Mayor of Black African-Caribbean descent. He was born and brought up in Bristol by his mother, spending time in Lawrence Weston and Easton - two of the most deprived wards in the city. Throughout his career, Rees has worked within political, public and voluntary community-based organisations, both in the UK and the United States. His determination to improve opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds led him to found the City Leadership Programme in 2012, which invests in the personal development and training for future leaders, and continues as its director. Marvin himself is a graduate of Operation Black Vote and the Labour Future Candidate Programme.

Danny Sapani is a versatile and accomplished actor, working across film, television and theatre. He is known on television screens for his appearances in Harlots, Penny Dreadful, Misfits, The Crown, and Broken. His film credits include Danny Boyles' Trance and The Siege of Jadotville, alongside blockbusters such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Black Panther. Danny's extensive theatre work includes numerous productions at the National Theatre, including, the leading role of Ephraim in the critically acclaimed Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, as Jason in Medea opposite Helen McCrory and as Tshembe Matoseh in Les Blancs directed by Yael Farber. His other theatre credits include; Wig Out at the Royal Court, the title role in Out of Joint's production of Macbeth, To the Green Fields Beyond at The Donmar Warehouse and as Brutus in Julius Caesar at The Globe Theatre.

Vanessa Kisuule is an internationally renowned writer and performer based in Bristol. She has won over 10 slam titles including most recently the Nuoryican Poetry Slam New York, and has performed at an array of famous venues and events including the Royal Albert Hall, Blahblahblah at Bristol Old Vic and at festivals including WOMAD, Shambala and Glastonbury. She represented the UK in two European Slam Championships in Sweden and Belgium, completed a ten day tour around Germany in 2015 and spoke at the Global Forum of Migration and Development in Bangladesh in 2016. She is recipient of the prestigious Leverhulme Arts Scholarship 2017 and has been appointed Bristol City Poet 2018-2020.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818, eleven years after the slave trade was outlawed in the UK but nearly fifty years before slavery was abolished in the US. Aged just 20, Douglass bravely escaped and gained his freedom. Having learned to read by stealth as a slave, he agitated by any means necessary in support of anti-slavery, searing the American conscience with his charismatic orations and raising funds for this work during his tours of Europe. It was these tours that brought him to Bristol.

Frederick Douglass: An Abolitionist returns to Bristol emerged from conversations between the Bristol Old Vic team, Colston Hall and Bristol-based writer and historian Dr. Edson Burton, in search of a project that could meaningfully form an annual commemoration of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its legacy. Edson Burton is adapting Frederick Douglass' words for this event.


Related Articles View More UK Regional Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You