This article positions Ireland as a significant literary and political space for fugitive slaves, and for black anti-slavery activism more generally. William Wells Brown, Frederick Douglass, Samuel Ringgold Ward, Henry Highland Garnet and Amanda Smith were amongst those who visited and wrote about Ireland in the antebellum and postbellum periods. Their writing portrays Ireland and their Irish experience quite differently, but in ways that help position Ireland within the wider political currents of slavery, anti-slavery and empire. It considers Ireland as a literary space which facilitated the publication of black and abolitionist literature in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The article also evaluates some of the literary and historical opportunities that exist to elaborate the theme of Ireland, slavery, anti-slavery and empire, and situates the following articles as examples of this emerging body of work.