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Replaced Douglass statue gives city another chance 'to come together' 

click to enlarge The Frederick Douglass statue that was vandalized in early September 2021 in Aqueduct Park was reinstalled Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. It was the third statue of Douglass to be vandalized out of the 13 that are installed around the city.

PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

The Frederick Douglass statue that was vandalized in early September 2021 in Aqueduct Park was reinstalled Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. It was the third statue of Douglass to be vandalized out of the 13 that are installed around the city.

A replica statue of Frederick Douglass that had been toppled was replaced Wednesday, just feet from the building where the famous abolitionist and orator once published the North Star newspaper.

But if all goes according to plan, the statue and the 12 Douglass monuments like it that have dotted the city for three years won’t be outside for much longer.

Carvin Eison, who runs Rochester Community Media, which owns the fiberglass resin statues, said affording their upkeep has been difficult and vandalism hasn't helped.


The statue that went up this week replaced one that had sat in Aqueduct Park, off East Main Street near the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, and was knocked over in September.

Two other Douglass  statues have been vandalized – one on Tracy Street in the East End neighborhood in December 2018, and one in Maplewood Park in July 2020. The latter was thrown into the Genesee River.

Like the culprits behind the Aqueduct Park statue, those who vandalized the Maplewood Park statue haven't been caught. But in the Tracy Street incident, two St. John Fisher College students, Charles Milks and John Boedicker, acknowledged being behind the vandalism and ultimately helped install a replacement for the Maplewood Park statue, in addition to other community service.
click to enlarge The Frederick Douglass statue that was vandalized in early September 2021 in Aqueduct Park is reinstalled Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • The Frederick Douglass statue that was vandalized in early September 2021 in Aqueduct Park is reinstalled Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
Eison, a vocal proponent of the project, said the latest vandalism has given Rochester another chance to prove it’s a united city.

“You thought you could hurt us, but you didn’t. In fact, you did just the opposite,” Eison said. “By doing what you did, you gave us another opportunity to come together and lift up the legacy of Douglass.”

Presumptive mayor-elect Malik Evans was more pointed in his criticism, calling the most recent vandal “an idiot” and casting the monuments as a way to teach history to future generations.
click to enlarge Malik Evans, Rochester's presumptive mayor-elect, called whoever vandalized the Douglass statue "an idiot" during the reinstallation event on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Malik Evans, Rochester's presumptive mayor-elect, called whoever vandalized the Douglass statue "an idiot" during the reinstallation event on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
“I think we need to send a message to the people of perpetrators who think they can continue to do this. If you knock down another statue, we may put 20 up,” Evans said. “When young people are walking around this community and they see a statue and they may not know what it is from a distance, we want them ask their parents and people in the broader community, ‘What is that?’”

The statues, which were installed in 2018 to honor the bicentennial of Douglass’ birth, have dotted Rochester’s cityscape ever since. These monuments are replicas of the original statue, which stands in Highland Park, near the site of one of Douglass’s Rochester homes.

Eison said his group never planned for the monuments to be outside permanently and that they have already been on display a year longer than planned.

“What we hope by next summer is that we bring them all indoors and auction them all off to people who might want them,” Eison said. “It would great if they could stay forever, but it's just not possible because the cost to maintain them and we don’t have money to do that. We do it because we love them.”

Eison said Garth Fagan and the University of Rochester Rare Books room have shown interest in acquiring statues.

A large bronze statue of Douglass is also under construction now, and Eison said he expects it to be completed by next year. When it’s done, Eison said it will be placed at the newly christened Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

James Brown is a reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.
click image wxxi_news_partners.png

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