The day that celebrates love, Valentine’s Day, is also remembered as the birthday of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery, Douglass didn’t know his actual birth date, so he chose February 14 to mark the occasion because his mother used to call him her “valentine.”
All the world knows about Douglass because of his tireless dedication to championing human rights and racial justice for all. As an accomplished orator, Douglass’s speeches are still considered masterpieces that continue to inspire people today.
Beyond his worldwide reputation as an advocate for civil rights, Douglass holds a uniquely personal connection to Rochester that residents of other cities cannot share. He was our champion, and he was also our neighbor. It was here in Rochester where Douglass lived from 1847 to 1872, before his death. And he’s buried in our historic Mt. Hope Cemetery. And the monument erected to him Highland Park is the first-ever public statue in the United States known to be erected to honor an African-American.
On Friday, February 14, Mayor Lovely Warren honored Douglass on his chosen Valentine’s birthday by laying a wreath at his Highland Park Statue. This tribute recognizes not only the contributions Douglass made to the civil rights movement but also the intensely personal connection Rochesterians have with their beloved former “neighbor.”