Even after toppling monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the statue-smashers managed to reach a new height of insanity: Upstate vandals destroyed a statue of Frederick Douglass on the 168th anniversary of his best-known anti-slavery speech.
Maybe that was the point: Douglass’ speech extolled the promise of America outlined in the Declaration of Independence, making him a ripe target for radicals who believe the nation was founded with a stain of racism it can never remove.
Rochester police on Sunday found the shattered statue at the Genesee River gorge, 50 feet from its empty pedestal at Kelsey’s Landing — a stopping-point on the Underground Railroad where Douglass and Harriet Tubman, both former slaves, helped others gain their freedom.
It was one of many Douglass monuments erected in the city two years ago, in remembrance of his 200th birthday. Douglass is buried in Rochester, where he gave one of his most eloquent speeches, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” on July 5, 1852.
We saw quite a few social-media posts citing that speech over the weekend — but how many posters read beyond its title or the famous lines “This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn”?
Douglass, who in 1838 bravely escaped the slavery into which he’d been born in Maryland, had come to change his mind about the country’s founding documents, eventually arguing — against some fellow abolitionists — that they were vital fodder for the cause.
The Declaration contained “great principles of political freedom and of natural justice,” he noted. Its signers were “brave” and “great” men whose work carried the seeds of slavery’s destruction.
More, he declared, “the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.”
Those are fighting words to the warriors of the 1619 Project, the New York Times series that falsely claims the United States was founded primarily to promote slavery — lies that clearly animate today’s statue-smashers.
“Knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom,” Douglass once said. Those who claim to share his fight might want to learn a little about the man himself — and why he was a passionate defender of so much that they seek to destroy.
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