Frederick Douglass Bicentennial

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2018: Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Frederick Douglass

Mayor Lovely A. Warren and County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo have proclaimed 2018 as “The Year of Frederick Douglass,” encouraging our entire community to join in celebration of the life and legacy of Rochester's favorite son, legendary social reformer Frederick Douglass.

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. -Mayor Lovely A. Warren 

 The Year of Frederick Douglass proclamation was delivered on Jan. 4 at the historic Hochstein School of Music and Dance, the site of Douglass’ massive funeral in 1895.

Throughout his life, Douglass was the leader of the abolitionist movement, a legendary social reformer, human rights advocate, brilliant writer, gifted orator, father and husband, advisor to President Abraham Lincoln and several other presidents, a distinguished statesman and more. Douglass called Rochester home from 1847 to 1872, and lived here longer than anywhere else in his life. Here, he published his newspapers, the North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper. He assisted friends Amy and Isaac Post in Underground Railroad activities, hosted runaway slaves in his own home, gave speeches, supported women’s suffrage alongside Susan B. Anthony and much more before moving his family to Washington, D.C. after his house on South Avenue was burned down. Douglass died at his home, Cedar Hill, in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1895. He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery

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.  - Mayor Lovely A. Warren 

 Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee:

Watch: Dr. Anderson explains story of Douglass' chosen birthdate.

Established in the summer of 2017, the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, led by Rochester Community Television and RoCo (Rochester Contemporary Art Center) in collaboration with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives,  is a group whose members have a wide-range of missions and interests; but are all dedicated to honoring the Douglass legacy throughout 2018. The group has been meeting regularly to share information and inspiration, and to find synergy with other community partners to celebrate the achievements of one of the nation's most distinguished civil rights leaders whose most important work was done in Rochester.  The Committee includes the City of Rochester, Monroe County, dozens of cultural and educational institutions as well as private citizens, artists and activists committed to highlighting and preserving the legacy of Frederick Douglass. The Emeritus Chair of the committee is National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commissioner Dr. David Anderson, visiting professor at Nazareth College and founding member of the Blackstorytelling League of Rochester and AKWAABA, the Heritage Associates, which is part of the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom

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 

Events Celebrating the Douglass Bicentennial

Thursday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m.: The community is invited to join Mayor Lovely Warren, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and other dignitaries at Hochstein School of Music & Dance , 50 N. Plymouth Ave., as they proclaim 2018 as “The Year of Frederick Douglass,” encouraging our entire community to join in celebration the life and legacy of one of the greatest historical figures in our nation’s history. The newly-formed “Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee,” led by Rochester Community Television and RoCo (Rochester Contemporary Art Center) will make its public debut, announce significant projects, collaborative efforts, events, exhibits and activities honoring Douglass throughout the year. 

Tuesday, Jan. 16 to Saturday, Jan. 20, various times: No Struggle, No Progress, a live theater event at the Multi-Use community Cultural Center (MuCCC), 142 Atlantic Ave.: This multimedia production includes visual images, dance, music and the words of Frederick Douglass and fellow freedom fighters. The program features the North Star Players, directed by David A. Shakes as well as guest artists including Thomas Warfield, NTID professor and dancer, Herb Smith, trumpeter for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and scholars providing insight on the relevance of Douglass Today. For more information, call (585) 455-0380.

Friday, Feb. 2, 6 to 9 p.m. (opening reception) Exhibit open through Monday, March 18, various times: No Soil Better: Art and the Living Legacy of Frederick Douglass at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, 137 East Ave. Presented as part of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee led by Rochester Community Television and RoCo, this exhibit of new works features a diverse group of emerging and established NYS Artists. No Soil Better will reflect on how Douglass has been memorialized and the importance of his legacy today. Including work by: Yvonne Buchanan (Syracuse); Thievin’ Stephen (Rochester); Olivia Kim (Rochester); Rodney Taylor (Buffalo); Annette Daniels Taylor (Buffalo); Caitlin Cass (Buffalo); Luvon Shepard (Rochester); Shawn Dunwoody (Rochester); Meleko Mokgosi (New York); and the Rochester Public Library. Visit or call (585) 461-2222 for more information.

Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.: Walk the Walk, Encounters with Rochester’s African-American Ancestors. The Landmark Society of Western New York invites the community to the Memorial AME Zion Church, 549 Clarissa St., to meet Frederick Douglass in his bicentennial year and enjoy an entertaining and moving evening of theater and music, followed by a cookie reception with the performers. Admission is free thanks to support from the New York State Council of the Arts, Bergmann Associates, Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation, Fred & Floy Willmott Foundation and The Links, Rochester NY Chapter. Visit for more information.

Saturday, Feb.10, Noon: Frederick Douglass and His Photographic Legacy at George Eastman Museum, 900 East Ave. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth, artist Amanda Chestnut and associate curator Heather Shannon will talk about the great American’s contribution to the history of photography as well as the implications of collecting and preserving photographs of and documents authored by people of color. For more, information contact Nick Marshall, or visit

Saturday, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m.: Women in the World of Frederick Douglass discussion at the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County - Rundel Memorial Building (2nd Fl. Conference Room), 115 South Ave. The library's Local History & Genealogy Division presents “Women in the World of Frederick Douglass” discussion. Leigh Fought, professor of history at LeMoyne College, will discuss the role women played in Frederick Douglass's life and how they influenced his activism. The talk will be based on Fought's recent book Women in the World of Frederick Douglass. For information, visit or call (585) 428-8370.

Saturday, Feb. 10, 2 to 5 p.m.: Birthday Celebration for Frederick Douglass. Presented by SUNY Empire State College, the public is invited to the Rochester Academy of Medicine, 1441 East Ave., to enjoy a 200th birthday party for Douglass. Patrons will enjoy the voices of Akoma--Rochester Women’s African American Gospel Choir, a cupcake buffet and an opportunity to take a photo alongside an iconic portrait of Douglass. This event is free and open to the public, however, reservations are suggested. Register at For more information, call Timothy Cosgriff at (585) 224-3271 or send an email to

Wednesday, Feb. 14, time TBD: Shine a Light on Douglass community event in Highland Park to celebrate the birth of Frederick Douglass and create an important archival photo of the 1899 Douglass monument created by Sidney W. Edwards. This event is organized by Rochester Institute of Technology’s Big Shot team and presented as part of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee led by Rochester Community Television and RoCo.

Thursday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m.: AKWAABA: The Heritage Associates, Inc. will participate in the “Times in the Life of Frederick Douglass,”  part of the Bronze Collective series of events at the MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave. Call (585) 482-5192 or visit for more information.

Friday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m.: Frederick Douglass at 200 concert, presented by the Rochester Oratorio Society at Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 N. Plymouth Ave. Celebrate the enduring wisdom and legacy to our city and nation through this bicentennial observance of Frederick Douglass and his family. This event features Douglass re-enactor Dr. David “Sankofa” Anderson, a moving recitation by students from RCSD School #12 and the full Oratorio Society chorus and African percussion in the ‘Emancipation Oratorio,’ by nationally-renowned Geneseo composter Glenn McClure. Call (585) 473-2234 or visit for more information. 

Upon Request: AKWAABA: The Heritage Associates, Inc. will conduct Underground Railroad tours for groups upon appointment that may include reenactments, per requests. Call (585) 482-5192 or visit for more information or to schedule a tour.

Read about some of the many other ways the City of Rochester has honored Frederick Douglass   

  • Since July of 2007, Rochester's iconic "three arch bridge" has captured the interest of photographers and civil-engineering enthusiasts for its visual interest and structural significance. The Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge is named after for two of the United State's most important civil rights pioneers who called Rochester home.Douglass DVDS
  • In February of 2016 Mayor Warren unveiled a photograph of Douglass discovered in the special collections of the Rochester Public Library. The story of the newly-found, unique image resulted in a documentary produced by the City of Rochester Communications Bureau and shared with the community over several free screenings. The documentary is available on DVD at any City branch library.
  • In March of 2016 Mayor Warren and other City officials renamed the Highland Branch Library and the South Avenue Recreation Center, to the Frederick Douglass Branch Library and the Frederick Douglass R-Center. Both buildings are located on the site of the Douglass family home and farm.
  • In June of 2017 Mayor Warren joined the Lower Falls Foundation to announce that Kelsey’s Landing, a site in which Frederick Douglass and so many other heroes directed slaves to their eventual freedom, had been designated as an official National Underground Railroad Network (Network to Freedom) site by the National Park Service.