Commemoration from the Douglass Monument, First Public Monument to an African American in the United States, circa 1899

Commemorative card depicting Rochester, New York's monument to Frederick Douglass. 4 x 9.25 in. (102 x 235 mm). Rochester, New York: circa 1899.

Recto features a photographic portrait of Douglass with his life dates and information regarding the monument noting the location, date the cornerstone was laid (July 20, 1898), and when it was unveiled (June 9, 1899). A list of the Monument Committee members follows. The verso includes an illustration of the monument with a quote from Douglass: "Men do not live by bread alone; so with nations, they are not saved by art, but by honesty; not by the gilded splendors of wealth, but by the hidden treasure of manly virtue; not but the multitudinous gratifications of the flesh, but by the celestial guidance of the spirit." Douglass is depicted as the great orator he was, with one hand extended the other holding a text. This differs slightly from the finalized monument, which has both hands extended.  

The monument had its origins in 1892 when Rochester's Soldiers and Sailors Monument was erected and Douglass observed that the African American servicemen were omitted from the design. Local activist and community leader, John W. Thompson began fundraising for a monument to honor Rochester's Black soldiers. After Douglass's death and burial in Rochester in 1894, the project was reimagined to honor Douglass. Rochester was an appropriate place. It was a critical stop on the Underground Railroad, the home of Douglass's anti-slavery newspaper The North Star, and his home for 25 years, longer than anywhere else.

With partial funding by the Haitian government, the statue was sculpted by Sidney W. Edwards. Dedicated on June 9, 1899, the ceremony was attended by several notables including Douglass's widow Helen Pitts Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, and the governor of New York. W.E.B. Du Bois recreated the statue on a smaller scale for his "Exhibit of American Negroes" at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris. In 1941 the statue was moved to Highland Park and moved again in October 2019 to become the centerpiece of the newly-created Frederick Douglass Memorial Plaza. To commemorate Douglass's 200th birthday in 2018, 13 statues of Douglass were created by sculptor Olivia Kim, who was inspired by the Edwards statue. During the tumultuous summer of 2020, one of these statues located in Maplewood Park was vandalized and removed from its base. 


Light toning to edges.

Estimate: $1,200 - $1,800
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