Frederick Douglass Statues

City of Rochester

News Release

City Celebrates Legacy of Frederick Douglass with Statue Restoration 

(Monday, April 10, 2023) — In continued celebration of Frederick Douglass’ legacy, the City of Rochester has acquired 10 of the Frederick Douglass statues originally created for the “Year of Douglass” Bicentennial Commemoration in 2018.

The statues will be temporarily removed to undergo repair and restoration before returning to the community in new indoor locations where they will be protected from the elements and continue to bring life to Douglass’ legacy for years to come.

“Frederick Douglass is integral to the fabric of Rochester and these statues have become beloved landmarks in our community beyond the moment in time they were designed to celebrate,” said Mayor Malik D. Evans. “We look forward to returning these statues to their original grandeur so that they can continue to inspire and educate.”

Rochester artist Olivia Kim, who first created the statues, will undertake the repair of the epoxy resin creations, which reflect wear from having been on display outdoors for nearly five years, two years longer than initially planned.

The timeline for repairs will be determined after the statues have been taken to a temporary indoor storage area for a comprehensive assessment. Once complete, the statues will return to public display in new indoor locations including Rochester City Hall, the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, and the Aqueduct Building, nearby where Frederick Douglass produced The North Star and The Frederick Douglass Newspaper.

Thirteen statues were part of the “Year of Douglass,” a multi-organization initiative spearheaded by Rochester Community Television (RCTV) and Rochester Contemporary Art Center. The City of Rochester purchased its 10 statues from RCTV. The remaining three statues are in the care of RCTV, Rochester Educational Opportunity Center, and the University of Rochester. A fourteenth statue was privately commissioned and remains in private ownership.

“We will update the community when we have more information on when the Frederick Douglass statues will be installed in their new locations,” said Barbara Pierce, City of Rochester Director of Communications. “It will be moment to celebrate for us all.” 


NO SOIL BETTER: The Life and Work of Frederick Douglass in Rochester was a public art exhibition and history project presented by the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass bicentennial project.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress

Two hundred years after the birth of Frederick Douglass, arguably the most celebrated 19th-century African American statesman, Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass was a recognition and reflection on the living legacy of the self-freed man whose 25-years in Rochester resulted in some of his most important life’s work, including the establishment and publication of the abolitionist newspaper, The North Star.

Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass was a public art project, exhibition and community-wide reflection commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth. A collaborative effort between lead partners Rochester Community Media Center (Carvin Eison, project director and general manager of RCTV and Associate Professor, The Department of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations, The College at Brockport) and Rochester Contemporary Art Center (Bleu Cease, co-project director and executive director of RoCo) in collaboration with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and a wide-range of community partners who have come together as the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee. The project celebrates Douglass’ achievements and legacy, and beyond


Monuments Bring History Alive

A series of life-size monuments of Frederick Douglass, inspired by the Stanley W. Edwards statue in Highland Park, were placed at locations that are historically significant to his life in Rochester. The eight-foot bronze monument of Frederick Douglass first installed in 1899 is the first civic monument in the country to honor an African American man and is a starting point for the exhibition. 

The statues are the work of artist Olivia Kim and over 200 volunteers. The history consultant is Dr. Jose Torre, Chair of the Department of History of the College at Brockport and Director of the Rochester Reform Trail, a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for School Teachers. The Project Manager is Christine Christopher.


Creation of the life-size monuments of Frederick Douglass

The monuments, influenced by the Stanley W. Edwards statue in Highland Park (the first monument erected to an African American citizen in the nation) are the work of Rochester sculptor, Olivia Kim. Kim is a graduate of School of the Arts in Rochester, received a BFA cum laude with Honorable Mention in Ceramic Sculpture at the School of Art and Design at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and received the Prize for Best Sculpture upon graduation at The Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. She studied and made her living with art in Italy for almost a decade before moving back to Rochester in 2010. Her work was included in the recent Douglass-inspired show at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, “No Soil Better.” The fiberglass monuments are individually molded from an original Kim sculpture. 

In one departure from the original Edwards monument, the Kim sculpture incorporates castings of the hands of Kenneth B. Morris, Jr, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass – uniting the past with the present; and pointing the way to the future. Morris is co-founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and is also the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington.


(Photo: A. Sue Weisler/RIT)

The installation of the bronze statue of Frederick Douglass, at the newly renamed Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport, has deep significance. When the original Douglass monument was installed in 1899, the first monument in the nation dedicated to the accomplishments of an African American man, it was placed at the main train station near the present-day intersection of St. Paul and Central Avenues. Why? because the Mayor at that time, Mayor Warner, wanted to send a strong message to everyone arriving at the main portal to our city that exclaimed the importance of this man, and our pride in this man — a truth teller, a seeker of justice, a believer in education and raising strong children. A resounding voice for human rights for all people.

Today is no different. When people arrive at the main portal to our city today, this airport, they will see Frederick Douglass and know what we stand for, what we value — the same things now as we did then. Truth. Freedom. Justice, Education and Equity.