The statue in Maplewood Park stood on a site of the Underground Railroad, a network through which Douglass and Harriet Tubman, both escaped slaves themselves, helped to ferry other enslaved people from the southern states to freedom in the north.
According to CBC Canada, Rochester police say the statue was found close to the Genesee River gorge about 15 meters (50 feet) from its pedestal. There was damage to the statue's base and a finger.
The statue was one of 13 Frederick Douglass statues placed around Rochester in 2018, the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth. And the story behind those statues is interesting in and of itself.
The original Douglas statue
Back in 1897, John Thompson, a leader in Rochester's black community and waiter at the downtown Powers Hotel - traveled to Albany to ask the state government for $5,,000 - about half the amount needed - to erect a statue of Douglass.
"By the erection of such a memorial we may leave a witness which shall speak long after our tongues are hushed, a witness whose silent testimony shall be eloquent, which shall be an inspiration for generations to come," he told the legislators. And here is a bit of trivia for readers - The Douglass statue was the first monument ever erected to a black person in the United States.
Thompson got the money and in 1899, the statue was unveiled in the city. It stood for 119 years, a solo act and testament to the eloquence of the great abolitionist. In the summer of 2018, the Douglass statue was joined by 13 close-replicas of the original 1899 statue.
The project was the centerpiece of the local Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration, and project leader Carvin Eison said this was the group's way of bringing Frederick Douglass to the people.
"We wanted to take the legend of Frederick Douglass off the pedestal and bring it to the streets of Rochester where he walked," Eison said. "The legacy piece is well taken care of. ... What we're into is, what does Frederick Douglass mean today, locally and as far as our national conversation?"
The finished six-foot-tall, 40-pound statues are the work of local sculptor Olivia Kim. They are not exact replicas, but nearly so. Kim took more than 80 measurements of the original Stanley Edwards statue in Highland Park.
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a keynote address at an Independence Day celebration held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, and asked, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"
It was a powerful speech, and being the great orator that he was, Douglass delivered a scathing rebuke - even though he acknowledged the Founding Fathers of America, the architects of the Declaration of Independence, for their commitment to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
To a slave, Douglass said, America’s annual celebration of independence is “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” Douglass stated, very poignantly, "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine, You may rejoice, I must mourn."
The Guardian is reporting that while the perpetrators of the damage to the statue are not known at this time, Eison asked: “Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over Confederate monuments right now? Very disappointing, it’s beyond disappointing.”