Douglass Statue Welcomed Home, Downtown Easton Fills With Proud Celebrants Of Douglass' Returns, Becca Newell, The Star Democrat, Easton, Maryland, June 19 2011.
Before the unveiling of the Frederick Douglass statue Saturday morning, keynote speaker David Blight, director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, spoke briefly about Douglass' life and the significance of the statue, which now proudly stands on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn. "Douglass was one of the greatest ironists," he said. "And the irony that his monument will now stand forever ... next to Talbot County's Confederate monument is something Douglass would not want us to forget."
Throughout his life, Douglass considered himself an orphan, Blight said, spending much of his time searching for a mother, a father and, most importantly, a home. "Home is one of the most powerful themes in Douglass' autobiography," he said, noting that if Douglass were present at Saturday's unveiling ceremony, he would undoubtedly speak about "home."
In some ways, Talbot County - St. Michaels, Easton and along the Tuckahoe creek - was always his home, Blight said. "That's a complicated sense of home," he said. "But it's really the closest thing Douglass ever had to roots."
Thirty years ago, Blight visited Talbot County in an effort to retrace Douglass' steps, he said, describing his visit around the Eastern Shore, from the Wye House to Edward Covey's farm. While at the farm, Blight saw the exact scene Douglass previously had described in a passage about his time enslaved by Covey. "Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom was ever white with the sails from every quarter of the habitable globe," he said, citing examples of Douglass' eloquent use of words. "Those beautiful vessels robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition."
Douglass will forever be remember as much more than a fugitive slave, who escaped to freedom, Blight said. He's now celebrated as a thinker, an orator, and perhaps most importantly, for the language he used in his writings and speeches. "Frederick Douglass is a writer of the ages; he is a writer of the universality of human rights," he said.
However difficult it may be for the country to re-visit the topic of slavery, it is important that individuals do so, Blight said. "You've done so much here today ... to make sure (slavery) is no longer just under the surface, it is now on the courthouse lawn," he said. "We need to choose to remember, to hear, Douglass' voice."
And, like Monticello in Virginia has its Jefferson statue and Springfield, Ill., has its Lincoln statue, the courthouse lawn in Easton now has its own Frederick Douglass statue, Blight said, as the crowd of about 1,000 people applauded. Another of the invited speaker's, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, also spoke before the unveiling of the nearly eight-foot-tall bronze sculpture which sits atop of a 33-inch granite pedestal. "We've finally come to the crescendo," O'Malley said, with a smile, pointing to the statue that was covered with a red, blue and white sheet.
Douglass was born in Talbot County, just four years after the birth of The Star-Spangled Banner, O'Malley said, before admitting that Douglass is one of his favorite Republicans. As the crowd counted backwards from 10 to one, O'Malley stood next to the statue, ready to remove the its patriotic cover at the end of the countdown. Also with O'Malley were Eric Lowery, president of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Juliette Neil, winner of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society-Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum essay contest, and Brandon Coleman, a soon-to-be fifth-grader who researched Douglass for a school project, on which he earned 100-percent.
"Frederick Douglass was one of the great Americans of all time and the placement of this statue today, I think, is a real testament, not only to his life and the contributions to the America that we carry in our hearts, but I think it's a great reflection of the people of the Eastern Shore," O'Malley said, in a brief interview with The Star Democrat, following the ceremony. "(They) understand by the placement of this statue
Text and Top Image Source: Easton Star Democrat, June 19 2011
Bottom Image Source: Talbot County website