Douglass Monuments Bring History Alive

“Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass” Highlights Douglass’ Living Legacy for 200th Birthday in 2018 

Two hundred years after the birth of Frederick Douglass, arguably the most celebrated 19th-century African American statesman, the Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass project continues its extensive year-long recognition and reflection on the living legacy of the man and freedom-seeker, whose 25-years in Rochester resulted in some of his most influential life’s work.  Today, members of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, joined by New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson, County Executive Cheryl DiNolfo, Mayor Lovely Warren and other dignitaries, gathered at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance, the site of Douglass’ funeral, to celebrate the start of the installation of 13 statues that make up a self-guided tour to sites around Rochester that were significant to his life and work. (please find the full list of sites at the end of this release) The first three statues will be installed on Thursday July 19, with the remainder to follow over the course of the next few weeks. A companion web site, found at, offers interpretive information including a self-guided walking/driving tour map, biographical information and other resources.  Today also kicks off a marathon reading of Douglass’ autobiography as part of the national “One Million Abolitionists” project of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.


The monuments, influenced by the Stanley W. Edwards statue in Highland Park (the first monument erected to an African American citizen in the nation) are the work of Rochester sculptor, Olivia Kim. Kim is a graduate of School of the Arts in Rochester and the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She lived and studied for several years in Italy before moving back to Rochester. She has exhibited around the country and in Europe, and her work was included in the recent Douglass-inspired show at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, “No Soil Better.”  The fiberglass monuments were molded from an original Kim sculpture.

In one departure from the original Edwards monument, the Kim sculpture incorporates castings of the hands of Kenneth B. Morris, Jr, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass – uniting the past with the present; and pointing the way to the future.  Morris is co-founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and is also the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington.  Kim, a member of the faculty of RIT, was assisted by over 70 volunteers whose efforts are greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Commissioner Norman Jones, Karen St. Aubin, Jim Moorhouse and his crew for their technical assistance with the project.

“This has been an incredible year of learning and reflection, inspired by this great man who loved this city so much – and that is exactly what makes this monument project so timely and relevant. Important issues raised by Frederick Douglass still resonate two hundred years since his birth; and perhaps discovering more about Douglass will help us discover more about, think more about, and do more about the things we still struggle with today,” said Project Director, Carvin Eison.

“We are absolutely overwhelmed with Olivia Kim’s work, and we cannot praise her enough.  She has done so much more than replicate an existing -- and truly magnificent – piece of art. She has captured the spirit and the force of the man himself,” Eison continued.

"There are many ways that we remember Frederick Douglass, but one thing I would like to challenge is the idea that Frederick Douglass was a slave," said Assemblyman Harry Bronson. "He may have been enslaved, but in his mind and his spirit he belonged to no man.  He was a freedom-seeker. Freedom of the body, freedom of the mind, the freedom that comes through education, the freedom to express ideas, the freedom of equality for all people regardless of our differences, the freedom to go forward and fight for something that you believe in -- these are all things that Frederick Douglass the Freedom Seeker believed in, and passed on to us. Rochester is proud to carry that legacy of freedom-seeking forward in his name."

“Frederick Douglass once said that his attachment to Rochester would endure for his lifetime,” said Mayor Lovely A. Warren.  “While his love for this city is evident, we are the ones who are fortunate that he chose to make Rochester his home.   Now, 200 years after his birth, it is only fitting that we pay homage to this great orator and abolitionist.  His fight for freedom, justice and equality has made life better for all of us, and I, along with countless others, stand on the shoulders of this great ancestor.  The statues that are being installed throughout the city are beautiful reminders that Mr. Douglass was indeed an integral part of our city’s history. I hope that residents and visitors alike will take the time to visit the various locations and learn more about the Douglass legacy.”

“The legacy of Frederick Douglass is one that places a bright shining light on the importance of equality and justice for all people,” said County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. “Today’s “Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass” event illustrates the impact Douglass had on our nation and society, while providing us an opportunity to learn more about his lasting legacy here in Rochester. Monroe County is honored to be helping to pay tribute to Rochester’s legendary civil rights trailblazer by moving the iconic Frederick Douglass statue in the Highland Bowl to the corner of South Avenue and Robinson Drive soon.”


The community is invited to join in a marathon reading of the autobiography, Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, that will take place at four sites throughout the weekend.  All are welcome to participate (no appointment necessary) and each student reader regardless of age will receive a copy of the book, while supplies last. A generous Rochester donor has made it possible for more than two thousand books to be distributed to Rochester youth.  The lead-off reader will be Minister Damon Wilson from Memorial AME Zion Church, Douglass’ home church and the original home of The North Star press.  Minister Wilson will read from a first edition copy of the book which was printed here in Rochester on The North Star press.

July 19, noon-2 p.m.

Harold Hacker Hall, 1st Floor, Rundel Memorial Building, Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County

July 20, 10 a.m. - noon

Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester

July 20, 2 - 4 p.m.

Douglass Community Library

July 21, noon - 2 p.m.

Phillis Wheatley Community Library

July 22, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Brighton Memorial Library

The marathon read is part of the national “One Million Abolitionists” project of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. “One Million Abolitionists” is a bicentennial-year effort to distribute a special Bicentennial edition of copies of Douglass’ autobiography to one million students nationwide.  The marathon read is a project of the Rochester Public Library, University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, Writers & Books and Brighton Memorial Library in collaboration with the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee.


Each individual monument is marked with the web site address and a QR code to help visitors access specific information and archive images related to the site.  The sites are located at:

#1 -South Ave by School #12 999 South Ave (site of Douglass Family farm)*

#2 -Hochstein 50 Plymouth Ave N (site of Douglass funeral, formerly the Central Presbyterian Church)*

#3 -Talman Bldg. 25 East Main St   (North Star, Frederick Douglass Paper publishing site)*

*the first set of statues to be installed

#4-Favor Church 42 Favor St (original site of North Star press, original location AME Zion Church)

#5-The intersection of Central Ave and St. Paul Street. (original location of the Edwards monument at the old railway station)

#6-Corinthian Street at State St. (4th of July speech)

#7- Alexander Street near East Ave. (Former Douglass home site)

#8-Alexander and Tracy  (Seward School)

#9-Kelsey’s Landing in  Maplewood Park (departure point for the Underground Railroad)

#10-Mt. Hope Cemetery (Douglass family grave site)

#11-Washington Square Park

#12 –Rochester Educational Opportunity Center (REOC), 161 Chestnut Street, at the main entrance)

#13 – University of Rochester Rush Rees Library Rare Books and Special Collections (indoors, during regular library hours)


Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass is a public art project, exhibition and community-wide reflection commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth. A collaborative effort between lead partners Rochester Community Media Center (Carvin Eison, project director and general manager of RCTV, Associate Prof. of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations at The College at Brockport and member of the board of directors of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives) and Rochester Contemporary Art Center (Bleu Cease, co-project director and executive director of RoCo) in collaboration with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and a wide-range of community partners who have come together as the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, the project will celebrate Douglass’ achievements and legacy, throughout 2018 and beyond. Project Manager Christine Christopher and Emeritus Committee Chair and National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commissioner Dr. David Anderson round out the committee leadership. Dr. Jose Torre, chair of the History Department at The College at Brockport is the history consultant.

Special thanks to New York State Regional Economic Development Council, Rochester Area Community Foundation, The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, ESL Foundation and Michelle Garcia-Daniels for their underwriting support.

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