Editor’s note: Jacqueline Sprague is the great-great-great grand-niece of Rosetta Douglass-Sprague, Frederick Douglass’ first child and oldest daughter. She is a Rochester resident. The Frederick Douglass and Family Legacy Committee is an organization she started. Their goal is to collect and share Frederick Douglass related information and material in a manner that perpetuates the Douglass family virtues, values and practices and advances our nation’s intended constitutional principles of freedom and equality.
Statement, December 17, 2018:
On December 15th the Frederick Douglass statue was ripped from the base at the Seminary site where Aunt Rosetta Douglass, as a child, was denied access to the school because she was a Negro. Rosetta was the first child of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass.
Knowledge of Frederick Douglass’s national and international legacy as a statesmen, abolitionist, orator, and editor has been highlighted this year commemorating his 200th birthday.
Knowing the man and his virtues is relevant to today’s times where the struggle for constitutional rights still exist.
This tearful and racist act requires mandatory financial restitution. Additionally, this is an opportunity for these young men to learn the historical significance of Frederick Douglass and begin a life-changing journey to accept different cultures and to examine any racist objections to human dignity.
The citizens of our community and, most importantly the children and young adults, must feel the honest apology translated into actions that help build and strengthen systems to eliminate misguided actions.
The Frederick Douglass statue stands tall as a reminder of a father’s struggle for his child and all children to receive an education in a nation that honors the constitutional right for an equitable education in a safe environment.
Buckingham Properties has an agreement with the Frederick Douglass and Family Legacy Committee to reinstall the New York State Rosetta Douglass Seward Seminary marker at the seminary site on Alexander and Tracy Streets near the statue’s location.
The thievery is a global embarrassment in a community that struggles to overcome inequities in employment, housing, justice and education. Being accountable and paying for a new statue is a start. Much more is needed to bring words to visible actions that are felt by children.
Through the efforts of the Frederick Douglass and Family Legacy Committee the young men can be engaged in forums to dialogue with diverse children to create an awareness of how everyone has a part to eliminate racism. What would Aunt Rosetta Douglass Sprague say? We must hold people accountable for actions that step on the dignity of others, not diminish the cruelty of these acts as trivial stand-alones but to stand united and strong for the rights of all children to have an equitable education in a safe environment.
The salt has been poured in City of Rochester’s wounds but can be healed through the honest dialogue that creates respect and value for the dignity of everyone.
The Frederick Douglass and Family Legacy Committee members include: Hanif Abdul-Wahid, New Africa Cultural Center; David Anderson, PhD., Akwaaba: The Heritage Associates; James & Carolyne Blount, About Time Magazine; Katherine Sprague Dexter, Nathan Sprague Family; Marilyn Nolte, Emeritus-Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery; Walter Cooper, PhD, Regents Emeritus, New York State; Eileen Graham, Perfect Solutions, Education Products & Services; Jordan Gause, Nathan Sprague Family; Dr. Asha Willis, Nathan Sprague Family