For this week’s illustration, I decided to visit the Fredrick Douglass Monument, which is in Highland Bowl park. I chose this monument because I feel like Fredrick Douglass is such an integral part of Rochester history but also the abolitionist movement that it would be important to go pay my respects.
I chose to photograph the entirety of the monument because I believe the body language portrayed by the sculptor is an interesting choice. The body language of the monument is very inviting in my opinion, which is a choice made by the designer perhaps to signify the open-mindedness Douglass and the progressive actions he took within this movement. (Figure 1.)
Not only does this symbolize Douglass’s actions but it specifically relates to the quoting around the base of this monument. (Figure 2-4.) Some excerpts of those quotes are below that I really wanted to draw attention to:
“…not by the multitudinous gratification of the flesh, but by the celestial guidance of the spirit.”
“I know no country were the conditions for effecting great changes in the settled order of things for the development of right ideas of liberty and humanity are more favorable than here in these United States.”
“I know no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity”
These three quotes, along with the surrounding words, are not forceful, they are not violent nor are they creating an “other” in the situation. These relate to the literal elements of the monument. The monument is not forceful, aggressive or creating a sense of “other” in its existence.
When I first read the assignment, I had to do some research on what monuments we had in Rochester to visit and this was one of the first to pop up in my search. However, when I was driving down South Avenue to find this monument, I got lost trying to find it. I plugged it into Google Maps and I rarely can’t find what I’m looking for while using Google Maps. This monument was tucked in the Highland Bowl, where the open-air theatre is, tucked behind trees.
These three elements, the body language of Douglass in the sculptor, the quoting around his base and the location of the monument are all critical factors in terms of what the viewer(s) feel they are supposed to do. In doing some research of the monument, I learned that its current location is only a few hundred yards away from where enslaved people found refugee and support from abolitionists on their way to freedom!
Unlike most monuments, especially the ones in Washington D.C., I did not feel intimidated by this one. Although it was much large than I am, it wasn’t overwhelming like the Lincoln Memorial for example. In addition to that size connection I felt to this monument, the quoting around the bottom felt as relevant today as it was 160 years ago. I took some time to just sit and take in my surroundings while next to this monument and reflect on everything happening my life and the country/world.
I have never been to an historical monument and been the only person there. It was a different experience than I think many people have/had when visiting a museum or monument.