A statue of Frederick Douglass in New York was torn down this weekend as millions celebrated one of the abolitionist's greatest speeches, according to CBS News.
The statue in Rochester, New York, was ripped off of its base and thrown into the nearby Genesee River gorge. The famous memorial was built in Maplewood Park, which is located along a route of the underground railroad that Douglass and Harriet Tubman used to transport enslaved people to free states or Canada.
Authorities told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that the statue was destroyed on Sunday, which was the 168th anniversary of a now-famous speech Douglass gave in Rochester.
Douglass is lauded on Independence Day for his "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July" address, which he gave on July 5, 1852. In the speech, he explained what the holiday means to Black people in the United States and criticized abolitionists at the time for celebrating the day while people were still enslaved. The speech was recently remade by the Movement For Black Lives with actor Daveed Diggs performing the recitation, as Blavity previously reported.
The Democrat & Chronicle spoke with Carvin Eison, who helped bring this statue of Douglass and others to the historic city.
"It's particularly painful that it happened at this time. It's really sad because here in Rochester the statue of Frederick Douglass has always been a face of good," said Eison.
"Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over Confederate monuments right now? Very disappointing, it's beyond disappointing. I feel (we should) put a monument back here immediately so whoever did this knows that we are not going to be deterred from what our objective is, and our objective is to continually celebrate Frederick Douglass," Eison later told WROC.
The statue suffered significant damage to its base and to the hand of the figure. Eison said it will need to be entirely replaced because of how much vandalism was done to the statue.
After escaping slavery, Douglass lived in Rochester for 30 years, and he is buried there. There are other statues in the area commemorating his legacy, and he became the first Black person in the United States honored with a statue.
This is not the first time one of the statues has been vandalized in the town. In 2018, the town erected 13 statues commemorating Douglass in honor of his 200th birthday, including the one that was torn down on Sunday. That year, two white college students damaged one of the statues and allegedly yelled slurs as they did it, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
The tragic situation is now being turned into a political football by President Donald Trump, his son and other Republican politicians. No one has been implicated in the crime, but the president and other Republican leaders have said it is part of an "anarchist" plot to destroy all statues, including memorials to Confederate leaders and slave owners.
Former NAACP President Cornell William Brooks had a different view of the situation, calling it retaliation for current efforts to remove Confederate statues.
#FrederickDouglass ‘ statue was ripped from the ground —AS #Trump preached the hate #religion of the #Confederacy at #MountRushmore . Some call this REVENGE—remove our #WhiteSupremacists and we remove your #Abolitionist. I call it DESECRATION. Douglass saved OUR country. https://t.co/hzyn5PpeNQ pic.twitter.com/tgDclcCDjJ— 𝐑𝐞𝐯. 𝐂𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐖𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐦 𝐁𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 (@CornellWBrooks) July 6, 2020
CBS News journalist Wesley Lowery noted that Black statues and memorials are routinely destroyed and vandalized by white supremacists. As Blavity previously reported, a memorial to Emmett Till is shot at so often that it had to be made bulletproof.
"I’m very confused by folks who, upon hearing that a Frederick Douglass statue has been vandalized, think 'must be left wing protesters!' I mean, I guess that could have been it. But also, you all know black monuments are defaced all the time, right? Typically not by lefties. Looking forward to learning about how cancel culture has gone too far when the historic markers commemorating Emmett Till are shot up this year - as they seem to be every year," Lowery wrote on Twitter.