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Frederick Douglass Memorial Plaza illuminates statue at its new location

Dec 4, 2019

Frederick Douglass Monument is illuminated Wednesday night for the first time at its new location in Highland Park.
Credit April Franklin / WXXI News

A ribbon-cutting and lighting ceremony was held Wednesday night in honor of the completion of Frederick Douglass Memorial Plaza at Highland Park in Rochester.

Hundreds of people braved the cold to gather at the corner of South Avenue and Robinson Drive, to see the Frederick Douglass monument illuminated for the first time at its new location.  

Among those in attendance was Rev. Julius D. Jackson, Jr., who first led the push to relocate Douglass’s monument to a more visible location nearly 10 years ago. Jackson says he would like to see other memorials dedicated to the legacy of the famed abolitionist.

“You have Reagan International Airport, you have JFK...There’s no reason that we can’t have people flying from anywhere in the world, flying into Frederick Douglass,” says Jackson.

Jackson adds that he would like to see the Greater Rochester International Airport renamed in Frederick Douglass's honor.

In addition to the relocated statue, a scultupure symbolizing the North Star and other constellations was included in the memorial. The North Star was also the name of the anti-slavery publication that Douglass published while living in Rochester.

Workers discovered a time capsule beneath the base of the statue in October during the process of moving the monument. But it was determined the material inside it, which likely consisted of old newspapers, books and other items was too badly damaged to be salvaged for display.

The monument was the first in the U.S. to memorialize an African American citizen. It was first erected in front of the New York Central Train Station at the corner of St. Paul Street and Central Avenue in 1899. It was relocated to the Highland Park Bowl in 1941, a few hundred yards from where Douglass's home once stood on South Avenue.

The project and monument relocation was funded by a state grant and money from Monroe County, totaling $240,000.