A statue of Frederick Douglass — a former slave, abolitionist, and writer — was torn down on July 5, the 168th anniversary of his speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
The speech, given in Rochester in 1852 to a predominantly white audience, asked white Americans how they could celebrate freedom from oppression while simultaneously owning slaves.
The statue was torn from its base in Maplewood Park (once a stop on the Underground Railroad) and was found 50 feet away, next to the Genesee River Gorge. It had suffered damage to its base and to a finger. The perpetrators are still unknown.
Carvin Eison, a Rochestarian who helped lead the project that brought the statue to Rochester two years ago in honor of Douglass’ 200th birthday, said that the damage was too great for the statue to go back up, and that it would have to be replaced.
Eison guessed that the statue’s removal may have been “some type of retaliation” for the recent calls to remove racist statues across the country in the face of the growing Black Lives Matter movement.
This is not the first time one of the 13 Frederic Douglass statues in Rochester has been vandalized. In 2018, two men broke a statue from its base shortly after it was erected, and attempted to take it.