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Black History Cambridge


Local History

  • Photo, Frederick Douglass
    Photo, Frederick Douglass
  • Photo, Frederick Douglass as a younger man
    Photo, Frederick Douglass as a younger man

Laura, Queen's Square | January 25, 2018

Ex-Slave Speaks in Galt

On a chilly night more than 150 years ago, one of the most remarkable people in American history argued for equality to a standing-room only crowd in what is now downtown Cambridge.

The location was the Methodist New Connexion Chapel just west of the market on Dickson Street and the speaker was none other than ex-slave Frederick Douglass.

His story is incredible. Douglass spent the first 20 years of his life in slavery on a Maryland plantation and the Baltimore shipyards. In 1838, Douglass borrowed an African American sailor's papers and escaped.

Teaching himself to read and write, Douglass published an account of his life in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. This book, still widely read today, proved to be very popular, fueling the anti-slavery movement and launching his career as great speaker.

Called “The Brotherhood of Nations”, Douglass’ talk was the third in a series hosted by the Galt Mechanics’ Institute – a forerunner of Idea Exchange. He told those assembled that “A smile or tear has not nationality; joy or sorrow speak alike to all nations, and they, above all the confusion of tongues, proclaim the brotherhood of man.”

If you want to learn more about Frederick Douglass’ 1857 visit to Galt, check out the book by David Menary. You can also attend Menary’s talk on this subject at the Waterloo Historical Society.

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