Location: West 110th Street (Central Park North) and Frederick Douglass Boulevard
Artist/Designer: Gabriel Koren, sculptor; Algernon Miller, site and fountain designer; Quennell Rothschild & Partners, architects
Materials: Bronze, granite
Funding: Percent for Art, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was born a slave in Maryland. His master’s wife and white schoolchildren taught him to read and write before he escaped at age 20. He went on to become a well-known abolitionist, lecturer, author, and statesman. His first big break came when he was invited by William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, to speak at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual conference in 1841. In 1845 he wrote an autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and his popularity caught up with him. To avoid being returned into slavery, he escaped to the British Isles. After money was raised to purchase his freedom, he returned to the United States. Always a staunch abolitionist, Douglass championed many other causes, such as women’s rights and social reform.
Sixty years after the northern part of Eighth Avenue was renamed in Douglass’s honor, this fitting memorial by sculptor Gabriel Koren came to fruition. In the 1990s the Central Park Conservancy initiated talks to construct a memorial to this important historical figure and to enhance the northwest corner of Central Park. Koren used photographs of Douglass to create this larger-than-life, wild-haired sculpture. The site and fountain include granite seats and designs associated with the life and work of Douglass. For example, stars (depicting the Big Dipper) aided escaping slaves traveling north at night.
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