WASHINGTON – The statue of Frederick Douglass, will reside permanently in the U.S. Capitol after a ceremony on June 19th. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer introduced a concurrent resolution in the Senate today that would authorize the ceremony. In June of 2012, Schumer introduced a measure that would direct the Joint Committee on the Library to finally accept a statue of abolitionist hero Frederick Douglass for prominent display in the U.S. Capitol Building. Schumer’s legislation successfully cut through bureaucratic red tape that back-benched the statue of Douglass, completed by sculptor Steven Weitzman in 2007, in a D.C. government building blocks away from the Capitol. Two months later on August 2nd, the House introduced its version of Schumer’s legislation, which passed both houses of Congress and became law when President Obama signed the bill in September 2012. After pushing for five years, Schumer’s plan to deliver the statue of Frederick Douglass to its rightful place will be realized in a ceremony on June 19th in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol.
“After a more than five-year struggle through Congress, the ceremony to honor the induction of the Frederick Douglass statue in the U.S. Capitol is a capstone for Rochester’s American hero,” said Schumer. “The statue of Frederick Douglass had been back-benched for far too long, but now, after years of delay, this ceremony will honor the statue of Frederick Douglass’ arrival in the U.S. Capitol. I am greatly looking forward to finally immortalizing a Rochester civil rights hero in the building that houses the democracy for which he fought his entire life. The statue of one of the greatest heroes in the history of our nation, and a proud resident of Rochester, will no longer sit in a D.C. city government building less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol, but instead will be delivered to its rightful home.”
“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.’ After a long struggle, the millions of tourists who come from Rochester and across the country no longer have to wait to see this statue in the place where it belongs,” Schumer continued.
The ceremony to induct the Frederick Douglass statue into the Congressional collection of statues will take place on June 19th in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Schumer has introduced legislation in the Senate that would formally authorize the date and location of the ceremony. The resolution must be passed by the Senate and the House. Because the Senate and House have already made the placement of Frederick Douglass statue in the U.S. Capitol law by passing Schumer’s initial proposal, the passage of the concurrent resolution is a formality. As Senate sponsor of the original law, Senator Schumer will be a speaker at the induction ceremony on June 19th.
Schumer’s 2012 proposal highlighted that Frederick Douglass was a leading voice for women’s rights and the emancipation of slaves in upstate New York and that his message of equality resonated throughout the country. Currently, only three out of more than 180 statues and busts of prominent American figures on display in the Capitol portray African Americans. Schumer’s plan pushed Congress to finally take action and accept this statue of Douglass to the Capitol. The statue depicts a standing Douglass on a pedestal engraved with a quote from a speech he delivered in Canandaigua, NY in 1857 that reads: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
The legislation that both houses of Congress passed and President Obama signed in 2012 directs the Joint Committee on the Library to accept Weitzman’s statue of Douglass for placement in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol and details Douglass’s accomplishments as a national civil rights leader including his many years in Rochester, NY. Schumer was Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, which oversees artwork and statuary in the Capitol, in 2011-2012. He is currently Vice Chairman.
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. While in Rochester, Douglass published and edited “The North Star,” the most prominent African-American newspaper in the country. This groundbreaking periodical, in addition to his speeches and the acclaim of his bestselling autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” contributed to the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, also known as the Reconstruction Amendments, which marked major victories for civil rights in America between 1865 and 1870.