Frederick Douglass Bicentennial

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2018: Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Frederick Douglass

Mayor Lovely A. Warren and County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo have proclaimed 2018 as “The Year of Frederick Douglass,” encouraging our entire community to join in celebration of the life and legacy of Rochester's favorite son, legendary social reformer Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass is one of the greatest historical figures of all time. His leadership of the abolitionist movement is renowned throughout the world. It’s important that we continue to remember the sacrifices he made during his extraordinary life in his tireless fight to abolish slavery as well as his contributions to the women’s suffrage movement. This significant anniversary gives us another opportunity to honor his legacy in Rochester and beyond. -Mayor Lovely A. Warren 

 The Year of Frederick Douglass proclamation was delivered on Jan. 4 at the historic Hochstein School of Music and Dance, the site of Douglass’ massive funeral in 1895.

Throughout his life, Douglass was the leader of the abolitionist movement, a legendary social reformer, human rights advocate, brilliant writer, gifted orator, father and husband, advisor to President Abraham Lincoln and several other presidents, a distinguished statesman and more. Douglass called Rochester home from 1847 to 1872, and lived here longer than anywhere else in his life. Here, he published his newspapers, the North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper. He assisted friends Amy and Isaac Post in Underground Railroad activities, hosted runaway slaves in his own home, gave speeches, supported women’s suffrage alongside Susan B. Anthony and much more before moving his family to Washington, D.C. after his house on South Avenue was burned down. Douglass died at his home, Cedar Hill, in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1895. He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery

While Rochester has long honored the Douglass legacy, this year-long bicentennial anniversary celebration is a unique opportunity to foster pride as a city of freedom fighters, both past and present. Douglass would be proud to see his adopted hometown today as we have made great strides in creating jobs, bringing vibrancy to our neighborhoods and creating better educational opportunities for all of our residents. While we know that our work is not done, we look forward to Rochester’s future with optimism, inspired by the legacy of Frederick Douglass at the forefront of our minds and hearts.  - Mayor Lovely A. Warren  Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee:

Watch: Dr. Anderson explains story of Douglass' chosen birthdate.

Established in the summer of 2017, the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, led by Rochester Community Television and RoCo (Rochester Contemporary Art Center) in collaboration with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives,  is a group whose members have a wide-range of missions and interests; but are all dedicated to honoring the Douglass legacy throughout 2018. The group has been meeting regularly to share information and inspiration, and to find synergy with other community partners to celebrate the achievements of one of the nation's most distinguished civil rights leaders whose most important work was done in Rochester.  The Committee includes the City of Rochester, Monroe County, dozens of cultural and educational institutions as well as private citizens, artists and activists committed to highlighting and preserving the legacy of Frederick Douglass. The Emeritus Chair of the committee is National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commissioner Dr. David Anderson, visiting professor at Nazareth College and founding member of the Blackstorytelling League of Rochester and AKWAABA, the Heritage Associates, which is part of the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Join the conversation using the hashtag #FrederickDouglass200.

Carvin Eison (Project Director), Rochester Community Television
Bleu Cease (Project Co-Director), Rochester Contemporary Art Center
Christine Christopher (Project Manager)
Dr. David Anderson, Chair Emeritus and Commissioner, National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission 

Events and Activities Celebrating the Douglass Bicentennial

Summer 2018: Writers & Books invites local youth, ages 5-18, to participate in a number of week-long Frederick Douglass-inspired camps during summer break in celebration of the 200thanniversary of Douglass’ birth. Writers & Books will offer eight, age-appropriate SummerWrite camps that will focus on Douglass’ life and times as well as social justice issues. Click here to browse camp offerings. Click here to learn about need-based scholarships available for all camps. Call (585) 473-2590 or visit for more information.

July 19-22: Take part in a marathon reading of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Douglass' birth. Everyone is welcome! Just stop by for your chance to read aloud from the book or to hear others doing so -- no appointment necessary. All youth readers will receive a free copy of the book to take home.

July 19, noon - 2 p.m.: Harold Hacker Hall, 1st Floor, Rundel Memorial Building, Central Library of Rochester &Monroe County, 115 South Ave.

July 20, 10 a.m. - noon: Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester

July 20, 2 - 4 p.m.: Frederick Douglass Community Library, 971 South Ave.

July 21, noon - 2 p.m.: Phillis Wheatley Community Library, 33 Dr. Samuel McCree Way.

July 22, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Brighton Memorial Library, 2300 Elmwood Ave.

This event is part of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project in association with the national One Million Abolitionists project of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative. The marathon read is sponsored by the Rochester Public Library, Brighton Public Library, the University of Rochester Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, Writers & Books and the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee. 

Exhibit open through Aug. 31: The Rochester Public Library/Local History & Genealogy Division invites the public to explore a new mini exhibit: Frederick Douglass’ Rochester: Mapping His Tracks in Our City. This small exhibit on the 2nd floor of the Rundel Library was created in conjunction with the Division’s current exhibit on Rochester’s bicentennials and centennials. As Douglass once wrote that he would always feel more at home in Rochester than anywhere else in the country, his legacy is undoubtedly felt throughout the city in which resided for a quarter of a century. The exhibit highlights the spaces and places that informed his life in the Flower City. Free and open to the public. Click here or call (585) 428-8370 for more information. Watch CityWise for more. 

Exhibit open through August 2018: The University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries’ Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation and the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries present “Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s World: Understanding the Man and His Legacy through Rare Books, Special Collections & Preservation,” 2nd floor Rush Rhees Library, Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. This exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (585) 275-9335 or send an email to Jessica Lacher-Feldman, MA, MLS, CA at

Friday, June 8 to Sunday, June 10, various times: Join the Friends of Frederick Douglass for the Annual Frederick Douglass Freedom Festival. This continuous event was spearheaded by Dr. G. Juanita Pitts in 1968. On Friday, June 8 - Abolitionist Tour including travel to the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NY. Depart parking lot of Staybridge Suites Hotel at 10 a.m. On Saturday, June 9 at 1:30 p.m. - participate in a Wreathing Ceremony at Frederick Douglass Memorial Square of Highland Park, 1208 South Ave. On Sunday, June 10 - follow the Homage Motorcade at 2:30 p.m. Start at Favor Street Cir. and proceed to the Douglass monument and gravesite. Contact Friends of Frederick Douglass via email at or call (224) 365-4572 for more information. 

Fall 2018 (date pending): Frederick Douglass Memorial Oratorical Contest and Reunion. Contact Friends of Frederick Douglass via email at or call (224) 365-4572 for more information. 

Upon Request: AKWAABA: The Heritage Associates, Inc. will conduct Underground Railroad tours for groups upon appointment that may include reenactments, per requests. Call (585) 482-5192 or visit for more information or to schedule a tour.

Read about some of the many other ways the City of Rochester has honored Frederick Douglass   

  • Since July of 2007, Rochester's iconic "three arch bridge" has captured the interest of photographers and civil-engineering enthusiasts for its visual interest and structural significance. The Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge is named after for two of the United State's most important civil rights pioneers who called Rochester home.Douglass DVDS
  • In February of 2016 Mayor Warren unveiled a photograph of Douglass discovered in the special collections of the Rochester Public Library. The story of the newly-found, unique image resulted in a documentary produced by the City of Rochester Communications Bureau and shared with the community over several free screenings. The documentary is available on DVD at any City branch library.
  • In March of 2016 Mayor Warren and other City officials renamed the Highland Branch Library and the South Avenue Recreation Center, to the Frederick Douglass Branch Library and the Frederick Douglass R-Center. Both buildings are located on the site of the Douglass family home and farm.
  • In June of 2017 Mayor Warren joined the Lower Falls Foundation to announce that Kelsey’s Landing, a site in which Frederick Douglass and so many other heroes directed slaves to their eventual freedom, had been designated as an official National Underground Railroad Network (Network to Freedom) site by the National Park Service.