The Speech


Lenny Foster

The Speech (1/15)
pigment print on cotton rag paper
14 x 9.5 inches

Frederick Douglass was a prominent activist, author, and orator during the Pre-Civil War era. He also became the leading figure in the abolitionist movement, advocating for African American communities and American civil liberties. A personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, Douglass played a large role in convincing the president to issue the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

On April 7, 1889, after giving a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, Douglass traveled to St. Augustine in a special railroad car provided by the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Railroad Company. He spoke at the Genovar Opera House on St. George Street.  The mayor welcomed him on behalf of the governor of Florida and introduced him to the audience. Douglass spoke before a crowd of approximately 700 people of various races and social/economic classes about civil rights issues, emphasizing the newly freed enslaved wanted equal treatment and opportunity. After his inspiring speech, the audience rose for a standing ovation and then sang the national anthem.

The Genovar Opera House was lost to the St. Augustine Fire of 1914.

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