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New memorials at Mt. Hope remember contributions of Frederick Douglass' wife & daughter

Nettie and Ken at memorial.jpg
Stephanie Ballard
Nettie Washington Douglass, and her son, Kenneth Morris Jr., descendants of Frederick Douglass, at the unveiling for the markers at Mt. Hope Cemetery honoring Douglass' wife Anna Murray Douglass, and daughter Annie Douglass.

There is a new memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester next to the grave of Frederick Douglass. It is designed to better remember the famed abolitionist’s wife and daughter.

A ceremony was held on Saturday at Mount Hope, and it was the culmination of many months of planning, to place markers next to the grave of Douglass, where his longtime wife, Anna Murray Douglass and their daughter Annie, who died just before her 11th birthday, are buried.

The effort was organized by the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives organization with the help of a $15,000 grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Two of Frederick Douglass’ descendants came to Rochester this weekend for the unveiling of the memorial, Kenneth Morris Jr. and his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass.

Speakers at the ceremony noted that Anna Murray Douglass helped her future husband escape enslavement and was a freedom fighter in her own right.

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Marion French
The new gravesite marker at Mt. Hope Cemetery honoring Anna Murray Douglass, who was married to Frederick Douglass for more than 44 years.

Morris said he spoke to a class of 5th graders some years ago and the cards and letters he got afterward showed how inspiring the life of Anna Murray Douglass was to them.

“100% of the girls talked about Anna, they didn’t say anything about Frederick, and that told me early on, that we really need to do our part to inspire the next generation of ladies and girls in particular to see themselves in this incredible freedom fight that Anna was,” Morris said.

Annie Douglass edit marion.jpg
Marion French
The new marker at Mt. Hope Cemetery marking the gravesite of Annie Douglass, daughter of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass who died just before her 11th birthday.

Morris and others at the ceremony also noted Annie Douglass, at her young age, was already a devoted student of the abolitionist movement and formed a close bond with activist John Brown, who often stayed at the Douglass home in Rochester.

Erica Mock, executive director of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, said that Saturday marked “a historic day for Rochester. This unveiling marks the change of the landscape of the cemetery forever. This also marks the change of the conversation about Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna, and their daughter, Annie, forever.”

There was also significance to holding the ceremony at Mount Hope Cemetery on September 3. It was the day in 1838 that Frederick Douglass sought his freedom with the aid of his future wife.

PBS will have a new documentary about Frederick Douglass next month. It’s called ‘Becoming Frederick Douglass,’ and it explores the role Douglass played in securing the right to freedom and equality for African Americans. It airs on WXXI-TV, Tuesday, October 11 at 10 p.m.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.