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February 2, 2018

Rochester Takes the Lead in Celebrating Frederick Douglass' 200th Birthday

by
Devin R. Lander

2018 marks the Bicentennial of Frederick Douglass' birthday and Rochester, NY is taking the lead in celebrating this momentous occasion.  Though Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland, he lived for several years with his family in Rochester, where he published is abolitionis newspaper The North Star.  While living in Rochester, Douglass took a leadership role in the abolitionist movement and also spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention on behalf of women's suffrage in 1848.  

Both Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and City of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren have proclaimed 2018 "The Year of Frederick Douglass."   Mayor Warren's statement reads:

 Frederick Douglass is one of the greatest historical figures of all time. His leadership of the abolitionist movement is renowned throughout the world. It’s important that we continue to remember the sacrifices he made during his extraordinary life in his tireless fight to abolish slavery as well as his contributions to the women’s suffrage movement. This significant anniversary gives us another opportunity to honor his legacy in Rochester and beyond. 

While Rochester has long honored the Douglass legacy, this year-long bicentennial anniversary celebration is a unique opportunity to foster pride as a city of freedom fighters, both past and present. Douglass would be proud to see his adopted hometown today as we have made great strides in creating jobs, bringing vibrancy to our neighborhoods and creating better educational opportunities for all of our residents. While we know that our work is not done, we look forward to Rochester’s future with optimism, inspired by the legacy of Frederick Douglass at the forefront of our minds and hearts.

The City of Rochester established a Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Committee in the summer of 2017 dedicated to honoring Douglass' legacy throughout 2018.  The Committees members are:
Carvin Eison (Project Director), Rochester Community Television 
Bleu Cease (Project Co-Director), Rochester Contemporary Art Center 
Christine Christopher (Project Manager)
Dr. David Anderson, Chair Emeritus and Commissioner, National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission 

As noted, Dr. Anderson is also a member of the National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission, which was created by an Act of Congress in 2017 to "plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities that are fitting and proper to honor Frederick Douglass on the occasion of the bicentennial anniversary of Douglass' birth" and to "recommend to Congress programs and activities that the Commission considers fitting and proper to honor Frederick Douglass on such occasion, and the entity or entities in the Federal Government that the Commission considers most appropriate to carry out such programs and activities."  

The City of Rochester has created a website listing events and programs throughout 2018 honoring the legacy of Frederick Douglass.