Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) immediately wrote to the National Republican newspaper in Washington, which published five days later on April 19, 1876. In his letter to the editor, Douglass criticized the statue’s design and suggested the park could be improved by more dignified monuments of free Black people. “The black man here, though rising, is still on his knees and nude,” Douglass wrote. “What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the black man, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man.” This long-forgotten vital American artifact was found Saturday, June 27, 2020, in a search of newspapers.com, by Scott Sandage, a history professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Jonathan White, who teaches at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. Sandage and White sit on the board of the Abraham Lincoln Institute. Sandage alerted Mr. White and texted an image of the letter to David Blight, a Douglass biographer and history professor at Yale University.
How about a plaque providing historical context? What could a plaque possibly say that would counter the thousands of words evoked by the image before us? Would it give the unnamed, nearly-naked person the dignity he deserves? Would it make him look less like a shoeshine boy, or a child, or an animal? Would it stand him up beside Lincoln, as equals? - Raul Fernandez.