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Journey of My Soul: The Legacy of Frederick Douglass

This is a community-initiated effort to install a monument to the great abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass in the Roxbury neighborhood.

This project is in the fabrication stage. 

The bronze memorial will feature Douglass pointing the way ahead. Sculptor Mario Chiodo designed the artwork based on a drawing by Roxbury painter Paul Goodnight. Symbolic figures of the Black community’s fight for equal rights will surround Douglass, including:

  • Black suffragist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
  • his son and soldier, Lewis Henry Douglass, and
  • a portrait of Douglass reading as a child. 

Local design firm Sasaki is designing Frederick Douglass Plaza. Sasaki will create a more accessible and welcoming public space for the neighborhood.

Project Context

This long-awaited project honors Douglass’s legacy and important contributions to American history. 

Community members first presented the project to the Boston Art Commission in February 2009. The Frederick Douglass Sculpture Committee (FDSC) is leading the project. The FDSC has since advocated and fundraised to make this memorial a reality. The hard work of the FDSC has made it possible to design the statue and plan the surrounding park. Public Art Project Community Liaison and chairperson of the FDSC Aziza Robinson-Goodnight is also a collaborator on this project.

In February 2021, former Mayor Walsh and the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) recommended a $400,000 Community Preservation Act grant for the Douglass Plaza project. As part of Mayor Janey’s FY22 recommended capital budget, the City of Boston allocated $550,000 toward the fabrication and installation of the statue.

Conceptual drawing of Frederick Douglass statue by artist Paul Goodnight.
Conceptual drawing of Frederick Douglass statue by artist Paul Goodnight.

Community Impact

Douglass has deep ties to Massachusetts and to Boston. He and his wife, Anna Murray, lived in New Bedford and Lynn after escaping enslavement. Many of his speeches were given in Boston, including at the African Meeting House. He wrote his bestselling autobiography, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave", in Massachusetts. Douglass changed American history with his descriptions of life as an enslaved man and self-liberation.

Site for Frederick Douglass statue
Photo of site in Roxbury where Frederick Douglass statue will be installed.

The Roxbury neighborhood has long been the heart of Black culture in Boston. The statue’s proposed site at the intersection of Tremont and Hammond streets was dedicated as Frederick Douglass Square in 1917. It is next to a 2003 mural celebrating the abolitionist, but this commemoration is beginning to fade. Despite community efforts, the City has long lacked a long-term memorial to Douglass. Douglass' legacy as one of the most impactful American writers and orators is vital to understanding:

  • the history of enslavement in this country, and
  • Black individuals’ triumphs in the face of continued systemic racism.
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