Vandalized Frederick Douglass Statue Replaced

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A statue of Frederick Douglass thrown into the Genesee River gorge on July 5 was replaced Thursday.

The incident happened on the anniversary of Douglass’ most famous speech: What to a slave is the fourth of July? That statue could not be salvaged. Rochester Police say they have not arrested anyone in connection with the crime.

Dignitaries from the city of Rochester and Monroe County including Deputy Monroe County Executive Corrinda Crossdale and were on hand for the installation.

“This monument reminds us of the struggles that Frederick Douglass fought over 100 years ago and is a symbol that is meant to educate, connect and inspire us all,” Crossdale said.

Artist Olivia Kim sculpted this statue and twelve others which were installed around Rochester to honor Douglass’ legacy.

“This vandalism is very painful,” said Kim. “Please do not allow the pain to tear us apart. We need to remember that the love, unity and cooperation that made these statues cannot be touched.”

The statues are replicas of the original which stands near the site of Douglass’s home in Highland Park.

Video by Max Schulte

Carvin Eison is leader of the Re-energize the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Committee which sought funds for the statues.

“You can tear down each and every one of these monuments, you can throw them in that gorge like people tried to do,” said Eison. “But you can never diminish the character and the values that Mr. Douglass stood for.”

Eison also said we are still learning from Douglass today.

Charles Milks and John Boedicker, the college students arrested for vandalizing another statue of Douglass in 2018, help install another Douglass statue in Maplewood Park MAX SCHULTE / WXXI NEWS

“There’s an old saying that goes something like this, when the student is ready, the teacher will come and nearly 130 years after his death, the teacher in the form of Frederick Douglass still comes to teach us all,” said Eison.

Among those who say they’ve learned from Douglass are Charles Milks and John Boedicker, the college students arrested for vandalizing another statue of Douglass in 2018 on Tracy Street. They were also on hand to help with the installation on Thursday.

Boedicker said they can’t escape what they did but they can work to ease the pain they caused.

“It’s going to be a defining moment in our lives but it doesn’t mean it can’t be a positive thing from that instant on,” said Boedicker.

Strangely enough, the statue that was installed Thursday, also replaced the statue that Boedicker and Milks destroyed in 2018. It was in storage because of construction around Tracy street. Kim, who made the statues said she’ll be making another one.