Frederick Douglass Centre

Photograph of the Frederick Douglass Centre, image by Graeme Peacock

The Frederick Douglass Centre is one of the newest buildings at Newcastle University, housing state of the art learning and teaching facilities. It takes its name from the prominent slavery abolitionist, author and diplomatist, Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born around 1818 as an enslaved person in Maryland, USA. He escaped from slavery in 1838, and after publishing his autobiography titled ‘Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave’, he travelled to Newcastle in 1846, as part of a lecture tour. While in Newcastle, Douglass stayed with Anna and Ellen Richardson on Summerhill Grove, near where The Frederick Douglass Centre stands today. The Richardsons were Quaker sisters-in-law, who raised the funds to buy Douglass’ freedom later that year. 

Photograph of Frederick Douglass, taken c. 1879

The building was inspired by a unique property which once stood on the same street. Oystershell House was built in the 1800s, and the whole building, with the exception of the roof, was covered with oyster shells which shined in the sun. The new centre was officially opened in November 2019 by Kenneth B Morris Jr. Morris is President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI), and one of Douglass’ direct descendants. 

The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend 1890, CLARKE 2066-4, Clarke (Edwin) Local Collection

Learn more about the life of Frederick Douglass on this webpage


Newcastle University (2021) Frederick Douglass. Available at:

Newcastle University Press Office (2018) Helix building named in honour of social reformer and abolitionist. Available at:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2020) Frederick Douglass. Available at:

Want to learn more about the history of Newcastle University campus? Why not explore all the articles in our Campus Tour blog series.

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