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‘Some type of retaliation’? Statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass torn down in New York

Remnants of a Frederick Douglass statue
Remnants of a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which was ripped from its base at a park in Rochester, N.Y., on Sunday.
(WROC-TV via Associated Press)

A statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was ripped from its base in Rochester, N.Y., on the anniversary of one of his most famous speeches, delivered in the city in 1852.

Police said the statue of Douglass was taken Sunday from Maplewood Park, a site along the Underground Railroad where Douglass and Harriet Tubman helped shuttle slaves to freedom.

The statue was found at the brink of the Genesee River gorge about 50 feet from its pedestal, police said. There was damage to the base and a finger.

“Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over Confederate monuments right now?” Carvin Eison, a leader of the project that brought the statue to the park, told WROC-TV. “It’s beyond disappointing.”

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In Rochester on July 5, 1852, Douglass gave the speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July,” in which he called the celebration of liberty a sham in a nation that enslaved and oppressed its Black citizens.

To a slave, Douglass said, Independence Day is “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.”

Eison told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that another statue would take its place because the damage is too significant.


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