That’s right. The statue of Frederick Douglass, a former slave who fought for abolition and education, was ripped down in Rochester, New York on Sunday. It was removed from its pedestal by unknown vandals and found by authorities nearly 50 feet from its base leaning against a fence next to the Genesee River. The despicable act was carried out on the 168th anniversary of Douglass’s famous “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech given in the same town in 1852.
Carvin Eison, a member of the initiative ‘Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass’, the group responsible for putting up the statue, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle another statue will have to be erected as the damage is so severe. He noted it was painful to see “a monument that we put so much work and thought and love and care into” mistreated and vandalized.
“I feel (we should) put a monument back here immediately so whoever did this knows that we are not going to be deterred from what our objective is, and our objective is to continually celebrate Frederick Douglass,” Eison told the local outlet.
The city of Rochester, New York has 13 statues of the abolitionist throughout the city — the memorials were unveiled in 2018 to commemorate the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth.
The famous speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” delivered 168 years ago in Rochester, called out Americans for celebrating Independence Day while slaves were still in chains.
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim,” Douglass said in the famous oration. “To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless.”
Born into slavery, Douglass was chosen to live in his owners’ home and learned the alphabet from the slaveholder’s wife, Sophia. She was ordered to stop teaching but Douglass continued to seek knowledge from white kids in the neighborhood.
He learned to read and did so constantly. He taught other slaves how to read the New Testament until slaveowners broke the meetings up with weapons.
Moved around frequently, Douglass worked for different masters until his escape to New Bedford, Massachusetts where he hid from slave hunters for three years.
His intellect and speaking skills landed him as agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. He went on to write his famous biography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, a classic in American literature. He also started an anti-slavery newspaper, The North Star.
Douglass later befriended Abraham Lincoln and served as an advisor to the sixteenth president throughout the civil war.
According to Britannica, he went on to serve as assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, marshal and recorder of deeds in Washington D.C. and U.S. Minister and Consul General to Haiti.
Douglass fought and spoke for abolition for the his entire life — he also was an early advocate for women’s rights.
“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker,” Douglass once said.