ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local activist Richard Glaser created an online petition directed toward Monroe County Executive Adam Bello to change the name of the Greater Rochester International Airport to “Frederick Douglass International Airport.”
Glaser posted it on his own Facebook page less than 24 hours ago.
At time of publication, the total number of petition signatures was just below 1,500. The original plan was to aim for 200 signatures at first, and long term would work up to 2,000 signatures.
“I’m blown away,” Glaser said told News 8 over phone Monday.
Glaser, who is also recovering from a broken hip following a biking accident, said he started this petition to help contribute to racial equity in Rochester, and maybe even around the world. He is originally from New York City, and wants to change the racial segregation he sees in Rochester.
“Symbols are very important,” he said. “Racial equity is the ball and chain we carry around our ankle.”
By uplifting the name of Douglass to the public, Glaser says the celebrated abolitionist could serve as a role model for the people who live in Rochester, and around the world.
“Frederick Douglass is arguably among the greatest historical figures for all the reasons that someone might win a Nobel Prize,” he said. “He really enshrines the values that were put out there by the Founding Fathers. We don’t recognize publicly that Douglass lived much of his adult life here.
“We were blessed with Douglass’s presence in our community,” he said. “People around the world know him, every school kid learns about Frederick Douglass. “It’s time to get that symbolic recognition.”
“We would be very supportive of a name change,” said Ken Morris Jr., the great, great, great grandson of Frederick Douglass. Morris says he and Glaser spoke at length last week before the petition was posted. “The Douglass spent 25 years in Rochester, it was his adopted home, and its where he decided he would be buried. I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to recognize him.”
Morris had only checked on the petition right after it was posted, and was unaware of how many signatures had been collected so far.
“Wow!” he said. “That is wonderful… It’s very exciting that the community is rallying around this, and I think that in the times that we live in right now, Frederick Douglass’s life, legacy, and words are relevant to the challenges we’re facing today.”
Morris lives in California now, but before the pandemic, would take frequent trips to Rochester. He recalls that the terminals in the airport are named for Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, but now after the redesign, the large names were replaced by small bronze plaques. Morris would love for his ancestor’s name to be more prominent.
“That would be very cool to fly into the ‘Frederick Douglass International Airport,'” he said.
News 8 has reached out to Monroe County; each have not immediately returned a request for comment.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.