On Wednesday in the State Capitol Building in Washington D.C., descendants, national leaders and officials gathered to witness and celebrate the new placement of a statue in honor of Frederick Douglass. The 1,700 pound, 7 foot monument features Douglass with a paper is one hand with the other hand on a lectern that holds quill and ink.
The Frederick Douglass statue located in the Emancipation Hall of the visitors center and is the fourth dedicated to an African American leader. The other statues are depictions of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.
Emancipation Hall, the historic home of the statue, was dedicated after a drawn out struggle between District of Columbia residence and congress in 2007 to the slave laborers who built the capitol.
In 2012, the Senate approved moving the Douglass statue from an office building in Washington to its new location. The question of whether or not D.C. could move the statue into the capitol building was entangled with the issue of Republicans opposition to D.C. statehood, because only states have the right to place statues in the capitol.
During the ceremony, speakers from the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association and descendants spoke about Douglass’s life and work. Nettie Washington Douglass who is a descendent of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington said, “How easy it would have been for a man born in chains to have the opposite views.” She went on to say, “Though I cling tightly, he is not my own, he gave his spirit as a birthright to all of us.”
Douglass was born a slave in 1818. He was taught to read and write by his master’s wife and by white neighboring children in Baltimore. Douglass escaped slavery traveling from Baltimore to Rochester, NY in 1838. He then went on to found an antislavery newspaper, The North Star.
After his house burned down Douglass moved to Washington where he worked as a US marshal. Douglass was an advisor to President Lincoln and worked aggressively to better both the African American Slaves as well as the American people as a whole.
Carl Cole a Washington art commissioner describes Douglass as, “the American self-made person, taking what opportunity he could so he could work not only for D.C., but the nation as a whole.”
The bottom of the statue reads, “Without struggle, there is no progress,” a line taken from a speech he gave in 1857 in Canandaigua.