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Douglass statue moving to ‘a place of great prominence’

Credit James Brown WXXI

A quarter-million-dollar project to honor Frederick Douglass broke ground Thursday on South Avenue. 

The plan to move a statue of Douglass to a more visible spot in Highland Park and shine a light on it was hatched 10 years ago by the Rev. Julius Jackson on the statue’s 110th anniversary.

“As many have said, this has been a lifetime struggle,” said Jackson. “A long time coming moreso.”

The statue, which is the first monument for a black person in the United States, was unveiled on St. Paul Street near Central Avenue in 1899. It stood there for 40 years until it was moved to its current location near the Highland Bowl -- not far from where Douglass lived in Rochester. 

Jackson said he nearly gave up on his dream many times. He praised the people who wouldn’t let him quit.

“The poet Langston Hughes famously posed the question, ‘What happens to a dream deferred,’ yet I stand before you today to state that a dream deferred is not a dream denied,” said Jackson.

State Assemblyman Harry Bronson secured about half of the funds needed for the project. 

Credit James Brown WXXI
The Rev. Julius Jackson (left), Assemblyman Harry Bronson (center), Vince Felder (right).

“It’s all about honoring the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass and making sure that this statue is a symbol for the whole community and that it’s visible and accessible,” said Bronson. 

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said the county will pay about $115,000 of the plaza’s construction costs. She said it will be named after Douglass and will open in a few months.

“And as I’m looking out at the Frederick Douglass statue right now, I cannot wait to move him to a place of great prominence because that’s where he belongs. He is a prominent figure for this community,” said Dinolfo.