Frederick Douglass Statue

Frederick Douglass’ Long Path to the Capitol

On June 19, 2013 descendants, national leaders and officials gathered to celebrate the placement of a statue in honor of Frederick Douglass in the State Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The nearly two ton monument features Douglass holding a paper is one hand with his other hand on a lectern complete with quill and ink.

The Frederick Douglass statue in the Emancipation Hall of the capitol’s visitor center is the fourth dedicated to an African American leader — it joined statues of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.

The placement of his statue follows a a drawn out struggle between the District of Columbia and congress. In 2012, the Senate finally approved moving the Douglass statue from an office building in Washington to its new location in the visitors center. The debate over whether or not D.C. could move a statue into the capitol building centered around Republicans opposition to D.C. statehood. Prior to the Douglass statue’s placement, only states have been granted the right to place statues in the capitol.

Douglass was born a slave in 1818 in Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He spent part of his childhood and teenage years in Baltimore before escaping slavery to New York. Douglass lived in Rochester, N.Y., for more than two decades and moved to Washington in 1871.

Nettie Washington Douglass, John Boehner, Joe Biden

Nettie Washington Douglass, John Boehner, Joe Biden

Douglass was appointed U.S. marshal of the District in 1877 and then became the city’s recorder of deeds. He purchased a house in Anacostia that he named Cedar Hill and was active in local politics.

One of his descendants, Nettie Washington Douglass, briefly spoke beneath the bronze statue on the day known as Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, before a crowd of 600 visitors that included Congressional leaders, relatives, current and former city officials, rights activists and historians.

Statements from the Unveiling

He was born in horrific Joe Bidencircumstances sanctioned by the laws passed in this very building, but instead of condemning the nation who made him a slave, he embraced the sustaining principles and used them as a sword to try to free others. He fought this Capitol, this country live up to those ennobling words in the Constitution.

— Vice President Joe Biden

Nancy PelosiMany of us celebrated Frederick Douglass another time by visiting Seneca Falls on the 150th anniversary of his speech to the first Women’s Rights Convention, a speech that recognized women’s rights and civil rights as connected chapters in the struggle for equality..

— California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Hank JohnsonFrederick Douglass was a lion among men — a pillar of civil rights, freedom and equality. … His struggle for freedom — rising from slavery to being one of the nation’s most revered citizens is a lesson for us all — that without struggle there is no progress. He is not just the father of the Civil Rights Movement by leading the fight for equality, but he advised President Abraham Lincoln and was a powerful voice for women’s rights.

— Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson

Leaders from both parties came together for the unveiling

Leaders from both parties came together for the unveiling

Douglass’ Written Legacy

Accessible Archives is happy to be able to help keep Douglass’ legacy alive through three of his newspapers — The North Star (1847-1851), Frederick Douglass’ Paper (1851-1863), and Douglass’ Monthly (1859-1863).

These newspapers are fully searchable and can be found in our African American Newspapers collection.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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