By Jake Clapp
Local governments and numerous Rochester arts organizations are planning a year’s worth of events to commemorate Frederick Douglass’s 200th birthday.
The former slave, abolitionist, writer, and orator – who chose February 14 as his birthday – lived in Rochester from 1843 to 1872 and published his newspaper, The North Star, here.
The City of Rochester is designating next year as “200 Years of Douglass” and will start its year-long commemoration by dedicating its New Year’s Eve fireworks display to Douglass. The city will also use a new Flower City logo during the year, incorporating Douglass’s portrait. And there are plans to move the statue of Douglass — the first statue in the US dedicated to a black person — from where it stands in Highland Park, near the Bowl, to a more visible site closer to South Avenue.
Several arts and cultural events have already been announced for early in the year: Rochester Contemporary Art Center will host an exhibit exploring Douglass’s legacy, February 2 through March 18; David Shakes and his theater company, The North Star Players, will perform “No Struggle, No Progress” at MuCCC, January 16 to 20; the Rochester Oratorio Society will perform “Frederick Douglass at 200” on February 16; the Eastman Museum will host a lecture on Douglass and photography on February 10; and there will be a celebration at 2 p.m. January 4 at Hochstein, the site of a funeral service for Douglass in 1895.
In a related development, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has asked the National Park Service to add Mount Hope Cemetery – where both Douglass and Susan B. Anthony are buried – to the National Register of Historic Places.