Recommend to your Librarian

Request a Review Copy

Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846

Living an Antislavery Life

Alasdair Pettinger

eBook (ePub) i
eBook (PDF) i

The first full-length study of Frederick Douglass’ visit to Scotland in 1846

Frederick Douglass (1818–95) was not the only fugitive from American slavery to visit Scotland before the Civil War, but he was the best known and his impact was far-reaching. This book shows that addressing crowded halls from Ayr to Aberdeen, he gained the confidence, mastered the skills and fashioned the distinctive voice that transformed him as a campaigner. It tells how Douglass challenged the Free Church over its ties with the Southern plantocracy; how he exploited his knowledge of Walter Scott and Robert Burns to brilliant effect; and how he asserted control over his own image at a time when racial science and blackface minstrel shows were beginning to shape his audiences’ perceptions. He arrived as a subordinate envoy of white abolitionists, legally still enslaved. He returned home as a free man ready to embark on a new stage of his career, as editor and proprietor of his own newspaper and a leader in his own right.

Show more


List of Figures
Part I: The Voyage
1. ‘Throw Him Overboard’
2. The Making of a Fugitive
3. ‘Put Them in Irons’
Part II: Dark, Polluted Gold
4. Electric Speed
5. That Ticklish Possession
6. The Free Church Responds
7. The Price of Freedom
8. The Genealogy of Money
9. Gilded Cages
Part III: Douglass, Scott and Burns
10. ‘One of Scotland’s Many Famous Names’
11. A Wild Proposition
12. New Relations and Duties
13. A Visit to Ayr
14. The Coward Slave and the Poor Negro Driver
15. Crooked Paths
16.The Sons and Daughters of Old Scotia
Part IV: Measuring Heads, Reading Faces
17. Breakfast with Combe
18. The Physiological Century
19. Travelling Phrenologically
20. A Glut of Ethiopians
21. Douglass on Stage
22. The Suit and the Engraving
Part V: The Voyage Home
23. A Disconnected Farewell
24. Cabin 72
25. Never Again
Part VI: The Affinity Scot
26. Recitals of Blood
27. Choosing Ancestors
28. Remembering Douglass
29. Out of My Place

About the Author

Alasdair Pettinger studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Essex, completing his PhD in Literature in 1988 while working as a civil servant in London. Since 1992, he has been based in Glasgow, working at the Scottish Music Centre and pursuing his academic interests as an independent scholar. He has held visiting research fellowships at the University of Central Lancashire (2000), Nottingham Trent University (2004-2007) and the University of Liverpool (2010-2013). He is the editor of Always Elsewhere: Travels of the Black Atlantic (1998), and has published a number of essays reflecting his (overlapping) interests in travel literature, the cultures of slavery and abolitionism, and representations of Haiti.


We have long known about the significance of Frederick Douglass's visit to Britain and his activities in Scotland in 1846, but Pettinger calls on us to look beyond what we know, and in doing so takes us on an exciting intellectual excursion at the end of which we are left with a much deeper understanding of the ways those months spent in Scotland helped to sculpt the man who is now recognized as one of the great figures of 19th century history.

- Richard Blackett, Vanderbilt University

You might also like ...