Rochester's Roots: Life-sized statues pay homage to Frederick Douglass

February 14, 2019 06:29 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Thursday marks what would have been Frederick Douglass' 201st birthday. He fought for freedom from slavery, women’s rights, and desegregation of schools.

Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass put up more than a dozen statues of Douglass throughout the City of Rochester.


“It is up to each generation to continue the work to bring people together," Carvin Eison, the project director of Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass said. 

Eison hopes the statues continue that conversation.

"I hope they wonder ‘why is this statue here? I thought I saw it on another street’ and maybe it will spark them to explore the significance of that location and what happened there," Eison said.

For example, the significance of the corner of Alexander and Tracy streets -- the site of the Seward School where Douglass’ daughter Rosetta suffered racist segregation.

"Even if it was put right next to his house, it wouldn’t have a sliver of the significance of where it was placed," Daniels said. 

Douglass' letter from that time was read by School of the Arts students Tian-Xin Stephens and Eric Daniels after the statue was vandalized last year.

“The powerful statement it has that no matter what we go through, we still have to carry on and power on to reach our end goal," Daniels said. 

Daniels first read the letter as part of a local then national competition in sixth grade. As a senior, he now feels the weight of the words. 

"It was a powerful moment. I had to take a step back," Daniels said. "I felt like I was living in blissful ignorance. But the weight of it shouldn’t be taken lightly. They should be heeded because we don’t want to repeat the past."

"Something at that location happened, it may have been 170 years ago, but that place is significant and hopefully they’ll want to learn what happened," Eison said.

Whether it be where the Douglass family lived, where he died, a stop on the Underground Railroad or where the North Star anti-slavery newspaper was published, the City of Rochester continues to celebrate his work. 

"They're opening up this incredible opportunity to explore the deeper meanings of their community, inter-relationships between people and the place they live in and where they are now," Eison said. "And then if we’re really fortunate, think about what will we do in the future."

There are 13 Frederick Douglass statues in total. You can explore the tour right from home by visiting this website. Or when you see one, you can scan the QR code to get instant information about the meaning behind each statue.


Stephanie Robusto

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