November 3, 2020

Fund for Irish Studies at Princeton University presents two events: A symposium on Frederick Douglass’s Tour of Ireland and a talk by writer Patrick Radden Keefe

(Princeton, NJ) Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies presents the next two events in the 2020-21 series. On November 13, Professor of History Christine Kinealy of Quinnipiac University; Colum McCann, author of TransAtlantic; and Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies Autumn Womack of Princeton lead a symposium on “The 175th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s Tour of Ireland,” moderated by Paul Muldoon, Howard G. B. Clark ’21 Professor at Princeton. Following on November 20, bestselling author and staff writer at The New Yorker Patrick Radden Keefe delivers a talk on “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.” Both events are at 4:30 p.m. via Zoom and are free and open to the public.

The symposium on “The 175th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s Tour of Ireland” explores the four months Douglass spent in Ireland in 1845, an experience he described as “transformative.” Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, statesman, and former enslaved person. Of his time in Ireland, Douglass reported that for the first time in his life he felt like a man, and not a chattel. He became a spokesperson for the abolition movement during his Irish tour, but by the time he left the country in early January 1846, he believed that the cause of the enslaved was the cause of the oppressed everywhere.

christine smiling with short brown hair and bangs

Christine Kinealy, Professor of History at Quinnipiac University. Photo courtesy of Christine Kinealy

Christine Kinealy is the editor of Frederick Douglass and Ireland: In his own words and director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac. At Trinity College Dublin, she completed her doctorate on the introduction of the Poor Law to Ireland. She then worked in educational and research institutes in Dublin, Belfast and Liverpool. She has published extensively on the impact of the Great Irish Famine and has lectured on the relationship between poverty and famine in India, Spain, Canada, France, Finland and New Zealand. She also has spoken to invited audiences in the British Parliament and in the U.S. Congress. Based in the United States since 2007, she was named one of the most influential Irish Americans in 2011 by Irish America Magazine. In 2013, she received the Holyoke, Massachusetts, St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s Ambassador Award. In March 2014, she was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame.

colum with hands by chin looking off to side

Colum McCann, author of TransAtlantic. Photo by Elizabeth Eagle

Colum McCann is the award-winning author of three collections of short stories and seven novels, including his most recent work, Apeirogon (2020). His bestselling novel, Let the Great World Spin (2009), won worldwide acclaim including the 2009 National Book Award in the U.S, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, the International Impact Award 2011, a literary award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and several other major international literary prizes. His novel TransAtlantic, in which Frederick Douglass is a key character, has also received international attention and became an immediate New York Times best-seller on its release in 2013. It, too, garnered several international awards including the Mondello Citta de Palermo Prize in Italy. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, McCann is the recipient of international honors including a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, and an Oscar nomination. In 2017 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts. His work has been published in over 40 languages. He is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organization, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the M.F.A. program in Hunter College.

autumn smiling with shoulder length curly hair

Autumn Womack, Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University. Photo courtesy of Autumn Womack

Autumn Womack’s research is located at the intersection of late 19th- and early 20th-century African American literary culture, visual studies, and print culture. She is currently at work on two book projects. The first, Un-discipling Data: Race, Visuality, and the Making of African American Literary Aesthetics, 1880-1930 charts the relationship between emergent visual technologies — such as photography, motion pictures, and social surveys — and black literary and intellectual culture. The Reprint Revolution, her second book project, considers the circulation politics and practices that brought many nineteenth-century African American literary texts into the marketplace in the 1960s. At Princeton she teaches classes on 19th and 20th century African American literature and the history of race and media. Womack has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a postdoctoral fellowship at Rutgers University’s Department of English and a faculty fellowship at Penn State’s Center for the History of Information. Womack’s work has been published in Black Camera: An International Film Journal, American Literary History, Women and Performance, J19: A Journal of 19th Century Americanists, and The Paris Review of Books. An essay on the cultural history of Arno Press and the utility of the black past is forthcoming in American Literary History, while new essays on Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and the pre-history of data visualization will appear in edited volumes.

patrick in blue collared shirt standing with hands in pockets

Patrick Radden Keefe, bestselling author and staff writer at The New Yorker. Photo by Philip Montgomery

Patrick Radden Keefe’s talk focuses on his international bestseller, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, his true crime narrative on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath. He uses the abduction and murder case of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of ten who was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by violent guerrilla warfare, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with.

Keefe’s work at The New Yorker has received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing and twice been nominated for the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Say Nothing received the Orwell Prize for Political Writing and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade. Keefe is also the creator and host of the eight-part podcast Wind of Change. His new book, about the Sackler family and the opioid crisis, will be published next year.

The Fund for Irish Studies affords all Princeton students, and the community at large, a wider and deeper sense of the languages, literatures, drama, visual arts, history, politics, and economics not only of Ireland but of “Ireland in the world.” The series is co-produced by the Lewis Center for the Arts and organized by Paul Muldoon, Princeton’s Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, Founding Chair of the Lewis Center, Director of the Princeton Atelier, and Chair of the Fund for Irish Studies.

Information about the Fund for Irish Studies series virtual events can be found at Other upcoming events in the current series, remaining virtual at least through the fall, include: 

  • Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Professor (emeritus) School of English at Trinity College Dublin, reads her poetry — December 4
  • Laurence Cox (Maynooth) on “Irish Hobo, Buddhist Monk, Anticolonial Celebrity: The Strange Story of U Dhammaloka/Laurence Carroll” — February 5
  • Fintan O’Toole presents the Robert Fagles Memorial Lecture on “1921 and 2021: The Partition of Ireland, Then and Now” — February 26
  • Tara Guissin-Stubbs (Oxford University) on “Symbols from within, and symbols from without: The Celtic Revival and the Harlem Renaissance” — March 19
  • Alan Hayden (University College, Dublin) on “Irish Archaeology Now” — April 16

The Fund for Irish Studies is generously sponsored by the Durkin Family Trust and the James J. Kerrigan, Jr. ’45 and Margaret M. Kerrigan Fund for Irish Studies. 

If you are in need of access accommodations in order to participate in this event, please contact the Lewis Center at for assistance at least 2 weeks in advance of the event date.

 To learn more about the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, lectures and special events, most of them free, presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts, visit

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