ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A bronze statue of Frederick Douglass was unveiled by the Rochester Community Media Center at the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport on Friday.

The unveiling began with a flugelhorn performance from Justice Freeman and continued with a prayer and speech from Reverend Julius D. Jackson Jr., who noted that the Douglass monument in Highland Park was the first monument erected for an African-American in the U.S.

Carvin Eison, SUNY Brockport professor, and filmmaker, as well as the project manager of “Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass, introduced an excerpt from “The North Star” from Garth Fagan Dance.

“We tell the story of what we value in the community through what we place in a public square, our community did something extraordinary 123 years ago,” Eison said. “Rochester, New York erected a monument that brought the community together, why was the rest of the country decentralizing around a lost cause? This is so fitting that it’s at an airport because the original mural was placed near a train station.”

Professor Eison also discussed the vandalism of the fiberglass monuments of Frederick Douglass, which caused the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities to support this project.’

Along with the statue, Professor Eison presented a picture of two kids posing with a Frederick Douglass statue and announced a statue of those two kids will be erected to stand in perpetuity with the statue.

Dr. David Anderson, who was appointed to the Bicentennial Commission of Frederick Douglass, was also presented with a plaque during the unveiling.

Ken Morris, Jr., a descendant of Douglass and co-founder and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, spoke at the event.

“I’m honored to continue the family tradition of posing for Frederick Douglass statues, providing the molds for the hands of this monument, which connect my ancestor’s legacy to the present day and next generation of leaders in the mold of Frederick Douglass,” Morris said.

The event featured speeches from Mayor Malik Evans, Congressman Joe Morelle, Monore County Executive Adam Bello, Dr. Heidi Macpherson — the seventh president of SUNY Brockport — and New York’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez.

“With the unveiling of this amazing and beautiful new statue, it is wonderful that everyone who travels to and from our city will be greeted by this visual and powerful reminder of Frederick Douglass’s lasting impact,” said Dr. Macpherson. “It is an honor he so richly deserves.”

“This is a historical moment. Malcolm X, who I was named after, said ‘of all of our greatest rewards, history is our greatest teacher,’ and today is a history lesson that will provide education for generations to come,” said Mayor Malik Evans.

Congressman Morelle also said that it is important to continue Frederick Douglass’s fight.

“Something this extraordinary doesn’t take one person, it takes a community,” said Congressman Morelle. “Too often, not enough people around the country know the connection of Fredrick Douglas to Rochester. This is a clear and constant reminder of the values we uphold here.”

“Monroe County is proud to be the home of one of the most impactful abolitionists in American history,” said Bello. “And that is a pride that we need to make sure that we share with the entire world.”

“The symbolism and the image of Fredrick Douglas cannot be understated,” Assemblyman Harry Bronson added. “In the world that we live in nationally, and right here in Monroe County. We have to learn from the legacy.”

The project first began in May 2021 as a fundraising drive to build a statue of Douglass to be on display permanently at the airport, with Olivia Kim, an adjunct professor at RIT’s College of Art and Design, creating the statue.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.