Too Much To Ignore: Who Vandalized The Frederick Douglass Statue?

Branden Janese
Jul 17, 2020 - 12:00

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A statue of the human rights activist, writer, and cultural icon Frederick Douglass was torn down in Rochester, New York on July 5. Although Douglass was born in Maryland, the city of Rochester was the abolitionist’s adopted home, where he lived most of his life and where his remains rest in Mt. Hope cemetery. The vandalization of that statue, in particular, was a calculated task done in the middle of the night and here are five reasons why it’s so curious.

1. The statue was torn from its pedestal on the 168th anniversary of Douglass’s famed speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” in 1852. 
2. Less than two years ago, Rochester’s Mayor Lovely A. Warren and County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo proclaimed 2018 as “The Year of Frederick Douglass” in Rochester.
3. The statue was in Maplewood Park, formerly known as Kelsey’s landing, where Douglass would help Black refugees board boats and cross Lake Ontario into Canada where they were free from the horrors of American slavery. 
4. To commemorate the 200th birthday of Douglass, 13 statues of his figure were erected in 2018. The statue in Maplewood Park is the only statue that has been vandalized, furthering the theory that the retaliation was the motive. 
5. To commemorate the 200th birthday of Douglass, 13 statues of his figure were erected in 2018. The statue in Maplewood Park is the only statue that has been vandalized, furthering the theory that the retaliation was the motive.

The statutes that were torn down in the midst of the protests following the murder of George Floyd were Confederate monuments of white men who took steps in history so that systemic racism remained King long after cotton, and oil, and big pharma. These were not honorable men who were memorialized. These were men whose deeds sentenced Black Americans to a life of terror, frustration, and uncertainty, and gave whites the go ahead to keep fighting the good fight. 

Some of these men have been accused of rape and murder and theft. So, it’s shocking that a monument was even put in place for Christopher Columbus, let alone kept up after history revealed the truth. And what is their punishment? Their monument is torn down. In some places, dignified removal was arranged but the damage to society that we have done by honoring these white men who wholly fucked up results in today’s terror show, where armed white people remain free to terrorize and sometimes murder Blacks without repercussion. 

The jealousy and hate of noble Black Americans and the false praise of corrupt whites oftentimes results in violent retaliation.

We know it happened with the People’s Grocery Lynchings in 1892.

We know it happened in Tulsa in 1920.

We are witnessing it today with mass incarceration and the rise of police murder of innocent and unarmed Black people. 

Perhaps this is no planned act of outrage and the breakage is at the hands of energetic teenagers. 

The fact that Douglass’s name rings slavery abolition bells and a current buzzword in social justice is prison abolition makes the destruction of his life sized statue feel more deliberate than an easily explainable coincidence. 

The Frederick Douglass statue has been reinstalled at Maplewood Park as of July 16.

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