Frederick Douglass Statue Torn From Its Base In Rochester, NY Park

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 
Frederick Douglass Statue Torn From Its Base In Rochester, NY Park

Some Americans celebrated the 4th of July by destroying a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass

This year’s 4th of July was different than any most Americans can remember. The country is still in the midst of reckoning with the racist systems that helped it come to exist — and that are still oppressing BIPOC Americans to this day. We’re also in the middle of a pandemic that’s claimed thousands of lives. It didn’t feel like America has much to celebrate this year, but still, some people carried on with their patriotic displays — including whoever spent the holiday in Rochester vandalizing a statue of Frederick Douglass, one of the nation’s most famous abolitionists.

The statue, which has stood in Rochester Park since 2018, was torn from its base and dragged across the park to be hurled over a fence into a nearby river gorge. What’s even more disheartening is that the shocking act of vandalism happened on the 168th anniversary of the famous speech Douglass delivered in Rochester: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.”

In that speech, Douglass questioned celebrations of American freedom that were held on the 4th for decades while many in this country still owned slaves. To a slave, Douglass said in his speech, Independence Day was “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.”

The statue was one of 13 monuments placed around the city in 2018 to honor Douglass’ legacy, and it’s the second one to be vandalized so far. Carvin Eison, a director of the group that’s been working to place and maintain the statues, wondered if this act of vandalism was like the last one — done by drunk college students — or if there’s a deeper meaning this time.

“What comes of this? Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over confederate monuments right now?” Eison told local WBTW News. “Very disappointing. It’s beyond disappointing.”

The monument has been removed for repairs, but project leaders hope to get a new one in its place as soon as possible, to show these and any future vandals that they won’t be deterred from their mission. Police are investigating and say they haven’t found out the motive behind the incident.

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