New Frederick Douglass Statue in Harlem

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For all his exultation in fleeing slavery to New York on the Underground Railroad, Frederick Douglass recalled how formidable the city soon seemed. “The loneliness overcame me,” he wrote of his first perch upon liberty in 1838, before he blazed into history as the articulator of African-Americans’ determination to shuck slavery. “There I was in the midst of thousands, and yet a perfect stranger,” Douglass recorded of his early glimpse of New Yorkers. “I dared not to unfold to any of them my sad condition.”

That such a powerful individual could be so daunted by the city, like so many ordinary newcomers, makes it all the sweeter that Douglass will be properly welcomed next summer at Harlem’s gateway. His statue likeness, noble and powerful as the man, will peer forth at the skyline. The setting includes a 60-foot-long, laser-lit fountain, flowing with the waters of freedom, and an array of the quilted code symbols that were one of the ingenious secrets of the slaves’ escape north.

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