Frederick Douglass statue toppled in N.Y. over July 4th weekend, anniversary of his famous speech

Nation/World

There’s only a stump where a statue of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass once stood.

The monument to Douglass, one of several in Rochester, New York, was found ripped from its base and disposed in a gorge over the weekend. Countless statues have fallen in recent weeks, but unlike Douglass’s, they were all of men on the opposite side of history.

The incident occurred either late July 4 or early July 5, according to Rochester’s Communications Director Justin Roj.

Apart from its removal, the statue also sustained damage to Douglass’s hands, Roj said.

Police haven’t identified who took down the statue, and Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary declined to speculate on a motive.

“Certainly disheartening, whether it was out of pure boredom or if it was intentional that someone would damage a statue that resembles someone significant in our country,” Singletary said in a Monday news conference.

The statue was one of a number of replicas displayed around the city in 2018 in honor of the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth.

The famed orator moved to Rochester in the 1840s after escaping slavery. There, he helmed the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper which eventually became Frederick Douglass’ Paper. He later moved to Washington DC after his Rochester home was set aflame, according to the Rochester Regional Library Council’s Western New York Suffragists archives.

The statue’s vandalism coincided with the anniversary of Douglass’ famous speech in Rochester on July 5, 1852, titled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” In it, he wrote that Black Americans were not free and independent like their White neighbors.

Statues fall across the US

Most downed statues in recent weeks have been targeted because they portrayed racists or slave owners. Officials in several US cities have even removed statues quietly overnight to appease protesters, if they had not already toppled the monuments themselves.

The nationwide protests have reignited conversations about the virtue of naming institutions after slave owners or Confederate leaders. Universities like Princeton and Clemson have had to rename buildings to remove the names of Woodrow Wilson, condemned now for his racist views, and slave owner John C. Calhoun, respectively.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized protesters calling for the removal of Confederate monuments and flag. At his June rally in Tulsa, he referred to demonstrators as an “unhinged left-wing mob” that wanted to “vandalize our history.”

“This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said at the rally. “They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose a new oppressive regime it its place.”

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