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Schumer Says The Appointment Of Rochester’s Very Own Dr. David Anderson Will Celebrate The Life And Legacy Of Fredrick Douglass the Abolitionist, Suffragist And American Hero

Commission Will Hold One Official Meeting In Rochester   

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced the appointment of Dr. David Anderson, a visiting Community Scholar for Nazareth College and renowned Fredrick Douglass historian, to the Fredrick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. In addition, Schumer announced that this prestigious commission will hold one meeting in Rochester. 

“This commission will immortalize a Rochester civil rights hero who fought his entire life for the emancipation, equality, and dignity of every American at a time when our democracy was far from perfect,” said Senator Schumer. “I am proud to appoint Rochester’s very own Dr. David Anderson to this important commission that will work for the next year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth and commemorate him as one of our nation’s greatest Americans. During the 25 years Douglass lived and worked in Rochester, he strived to bring our democracy into closer alignment with the values and ideals expressed in our Constitution. Frederick Douglass dedicated his life to freedom, justice, and democracy and on the 200th anniversary year of his birth, it is fitting to celebrate his legacy.”

On November 2nd, President Trump signed the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission into law. The commission will organize events related to the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth. The commission will honor Douglass’s legacy by issuing a postage stamp and rededicating the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. It will also look at preserving artifacts from his life. Senator Schumer is responsible for appointing two members to the commission. 

 Dr. Anderson is a Visiting Community Scholar from the College of Arts & Sciences, and School of Education at Nazareth College.  Anderson chaired the Rochester/Monroe County Freedom Trail Commission, alongside which the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center convened the 2007 Frederick Douglass International Underground Railroad Conference in Rochester. He is a founding member of the United States Colored Troops Living History Association and is the Senior Fellow for the United States Colored Troops Institute for Local History and Family Research.  In 2003, the Institute sponsored, “Men of Color, to Arms!”, a conference illuminating Frederick Douglass's role in overturning policies barring African-Americans from the Union Army.  Dr. Anderson is a nationally known storyteller visiting schools, libraries, colleges all over the United States and specializes in creating historical reenactments that illuminate the stories of United States Colored Troops (African-American Union soldiers) as well as Frederick Douglass.  Anderson is a founder of Akwaaba: the Heritage Associates, Inc. interpreters of African American cultural heritage. He also co-directed the 18th Annual National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference and was the recipient of the National Association of Black Storyteller’s Zora Neal Hurston Award. In 2013, Dr. Anderson played an integral role in the Rochester Chamber Orchestra’s, “Remembering Frederick Douglass.”  In 2007, he was a storyteller in residence at the Smithsonian Institute’s  Folklife Festival, “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture,” a program that explored the expressive power of African American oral traditions in the shaping of American culture.

Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Maryland in 1818, Douglass escaped from slavery at age 20 and lived in Massachusetts, Ireland, and Great Britain before he settled for 25 years in Rochester. Frederick Douglass lived in Rochester from 1847 until 1872. He purchased his first home in Rochester at 4 Alexander Street near the corner of East Avenue in April of 1848. He once wrote to a friend about Rochester, “I shall always feel more at home there than anywhere else in the country.”  It was in Rochester where he published his influential abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, which quickly became the largest and most prominent African-American newspaper in the country.  This groundbreaking periodical, in addition to his speeches and his bestselling-autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” helped influence the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments.  In 1852 Douglass and his family moved to a home on South Avenue in Rochester where the Frederick Douglass Community Library now stands. It was in this house, which also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, where he hosted other leading abolitionists, including Harriett Tubman. After 1872 a fire destroyed the house, Douglass relocated to live in Washington, D.C. where he served in many positions, including Federal Marshal and president of the groundbreaking Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company, while he carried on as a national leader for the causes of civil rights and freedom.  He died in Washington, D.C. and was buried at Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery in 1895. After his body was laid to rest, the people of Rochester erected the first monument in the nation honoring him in Highland Park in 1899.  The base of the statue bears an inscription with the words Frederick Douglass famously said in Canandaigua, NY, 155 years ago: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Schumer has long fought to preserve Douglass’s legacy. In 2012 Schumer introduced legislation to end a then 5-year delay which had prevented the installation of a Frederick Douglass statue in Emancipation Hall within the U.S. Capitol Building under the same provision which afforded the right of every state to display two statutes. Schumer’s bill empowered the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on the Library to accept a statue of Douglass that was commissioned by the District of Columbia for display in the U.S. Capitol Building’s Emancipation Hall. In the five years before Schumer’s bill passed, the District of Columbia had been left to display the Douglass statue in a D.C. government building blocks away from the Capitol.  In 2013 Schumer celebrated the arrival of the statue to the U.S. Capitol Building at its official unveiling. The Statue of Douglass was completed by sculptor Steven Weitzman in 2007 and is inscribed at its base with the very same words found on the Highland Park monument.