City Halls

George Murray, 1841

Albion Street

The City Halls, the first performance venue in Glasgow, was a focus for events ranging from orchestral concerts to political rallies and anti-slavery meetings. The venue helps illustrate Glasgow’s truly international contribution to universal emancipation. Frederick Douglass (1818-95) an African American, escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1838, to became a leading campaigner. After lecture tours in the USA, Douglass spent two years on a circuit of churches and chapels throughout Britain and Ireland between 1846 and 1848.

Another example of Glasgow’s leading position in the global campaign for universal emancipation was the appearance of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96) in 1853. Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, sold over 300,000 copies in the USA in the first year after it was published in 1852. Over half a million people signed the welcoming address to her lecture tour of Great Britain.

The Glasgow Emancipation Society started the Uncle Tom Offering to make up royalties Beecher Stowe could not receive in Britain. In Glasgow she was the guest of the Glasgow Female New Association for the Abolition of Slavery. The same society hired a series
of American black abolitionist lecturers, including J.W. C. Pennington in 1849-51. A later guest was the Rev. Josiah Henson (1789-1883), a slave who had escaped to Canada in 1830 and was the inspiration for the fictitious ‘Uncle Tom.’ He was given a civic reception in 1877 in the City Halls.