With the arrival of Black History Month, we are reminded of the great and influential people who fought so determinedly for civil rights and equality in this country.
The city of Rochester is privileged to be the home of Frederick Douglass and has greatly benefited from his bold contributions to society.
Eventually escaping slavery, which he was born into on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Douglass moved to Rochester in 1847.
Aside from being an extraordinarily active participant in various anti-slavery conventions, he personally helped hundreds of other people find freedom from slavery as a Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad.
His home in Rochester was located near the Canadian border, making it an important stopping point in the 1850s.
Over the years, Douglass and his wife, Anna Murray, housed and fed hundreds of runaways who often just showed up on the doorstep of his newspaper office.
Douglass’ fighting efforts were also directed toward the school systems in Rochester. When Douglass’ eldest child was denied acceptance to the public schools because of discrimination laws, he immediately began his campaign to end racial segregation in Rochester’s school system, claiming victory in the year 1857.
Not only was Douglass a prominent figure in the abolitionist movement all over the country, but he also founded a weekly anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester in 1847, the North Star.
Initially, many citizens of Rochester were very unhappy that their town had become the site of a black anti-slavery newspaper.
The New York Herald even encouraged citizens to dispose of Douglass’s printing press in Lake Ontario, but eventually the city of Rochester realized the importance of Douglass’ actions and in time began to respect him and his newspaper.
After enduring several hardships throughout the years, the North Star survived as a weekly publication until 1860 and then continued monthly for another three years. After 1851 the title of the newspaper changed to Frederick Douglass’ Paper.
The paper provided black writers an opportunity to publicly express and share their political views as well as to draw attention to the success of various black figures in American society.
It is because of his unfaltering dedication in ending racial discrimination, as well as his many other accomplishments, that UR honors Frederick Douglass by permanently incorporating his name onto our campus and as part of our institution. In addition to the well known Douglass Dining Hall, the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies was established in 1986.