Toppling Frederick


Frederic Douglass spent four months in Ireland at the end of 1845 that proved to be, in his own words, ‘transformative.

The monument to Douglass (above), one of several in Rochester, New York, was found ripped from its base and disposed in a gorge over the weekend. Countless statues have fallen in recent weeks, but unlike Douglass’s, they were all of men on the opposite side of history.

The Rochester police said they had not found anything to confirm or debunk a link to “anarchists,”

…The police also do not have enough evidence to affirm or negate an alternate theory proposed by some people, including Cornell William Brooks, a former president of the N.A.A.C.P.: that the vandalism had been carried out by white supremacists seeking vengeance for destructive acts against Confederate monuments.

Who Tore Down This Frederick Douglass Statue? (New York Times)

Frederick Douglass was quickly captivated by Daniel O’Connell in 1845 Ireland (Irish Central)


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60 thoughts on “Toppling Frederick

  1. Rob_G

    This is the logical outcome of an atmosphere of encouraging people to pull down statues that they don’t agree with: other groups of people will start pulling down a few statues of their own.

    1. Nigel

      You could say that, but it’s still pretty clear where the lines are drawn, no? People can – and have done so for a very long time – articulate arguments for the removal of Confederate statues and statues of slavers and outright racists. What argument could be articulated for the removal of a statue of Fredrick Douglass?

      1. Commenter #1

        Don’t you know that it’s “an atmosphere of encouraging people to pull down statues that they don’t agree with” that’s to blame?

          1. Commenter #1

            Nigel, you have to understand, some of these confederate statues have been in place since the 1980s. That is almost 40 years ago. This is history we’re talking about. If we tear down statues to historical losers that are slightly older in some cases than CD players or Jack Chambers, what have we become?

        1. Nigel

          Maybe you just don’t know what the Confederacy was and who Frederick Douglass was and how they disagreed and whether that disagreement was civil and respectful on both sides.

          1. Ghost of Yep

            Maybe you are unaware of the statue for an abolitionist that was defaced at the beginning of this thing and that ignorance can not be shielded by waving the flag assumed righteousness.

            Could be lads in white hoods too. I don’t know. I am certain though that you are being naive to think that the line is clear on these things.

          2. Nigel

            The line is absolutely clear, so clear that the defacement of the staue of an abolitionist can be attributed to either a mistake due to ignorance, or the act of racists. One or the other. It’s not particularly complicated or difficult to understand.

          3. Ghost of Yep

            Well now you’re just drawing different lines. Maybe i don’t understand lines.

            What if Black Nationalists removed the statue? Cool?

          4. Nigel

            I’m not drawing different lines. Those are literally the lines. Why would Black Nationalists take down a statue of Douglass? What are Black Nationalists? You can’t accuse someone of drawing different lines and then propose a fantasy ‘what if?’ Well, you can, obviously, but it’s nonsense.

          5. Ghost of Yep

            “Why would Black Nationalists take down a statue of Douglass? What are Black Nationalists?”

            Right. Have a great day Nigel.

      2. Toby

        Thats right Nigel. Morons really listen to the articulation of arguments before destroying things. A typical desk persons view of real life.

        1. Nigel

          If you respond to statues of Confederates being taken down by taking down a statue of Frederick Douglass then you know exactly what the arguments are.

        2. Toby

          As usual, you are more interested in being right than finding a solution. Hey mammy, I won the race riots!

          1. Commenter #1

            What do you think the solution to having statues of confederates and slave-owners in public places is?

          2. Nigel

            I mean, any solution that doesnlt take into account the difference between right and wrong won’t be much of a solution.

      3. Rob_G

        I don’t think the lines are clear at all; lots of people who would have little-to-no objection to that Bristol slave-trader guy’s statue being pulled down probably balked at the notion of Winston Churchill’s statue being defaced. Liberal-minded British people who consider Oliver Cromwell as the father of parliamentary democracy in the country might object if I went over to pull down that statue of the butcher of Drogheda. You might agree in principle with the removal of confederate statues by BLM activists, but object to to Identity Ireland/Anti-Corruption Ireland-types defacing the Wellington Memorial or painting over those street signs in Cork.

        This is why these things should be debated and voted upon by local councils or whoever, and not decided upon by whichever mob brought their own rope + pulley.

        1. Nigel

          I don’t think municipal redecoration is as straightforward in the US, particularly in the South where during the civil rights era confederate statues were erected in public spaces to assert dominance and mytholigise the Confederacy, then rules were changed to make it impossible for locals, particularly in black areas, to have any say in the matter.

          As for the UK, well, just because people have mixed reactions doesn’t mean the reasons aren’t clear. That Churchill statue has been famously defaced quite regularly over the years – what people really object to is highlighting his shortcomings.

          1. Rob_G

            Johnny provided a link below of a southern state voting to remove some of this imagery; in recent years, several states have voted to remove the confederate flag from their state’s flag.

            I don’t understand your 2nd paragraph – I have many well-developed ideas about the shortcomings of Karl Marx’s writings, that doesn’t entitle me to go and pull down his statue.

          2. Nigel

            Nobody’s entitled to pull down or deface statues – anyone who does so risks legal repercussions. That some people do so for kicks while others do it as acts of civil disobedience isn’t a difficult distinction to draw. Nobody tried to pull down the Churchill statue.

    2. George

      “disagreeing” with the statue means agreeing with slavery. It’s not challenging to judge what side of the line that is on.

    1. Toby

      The IRA knew how to play the game. A few well chosen buildings toppled in London and empire capitulated and the peace process started.

      Sometimes violence is needed, and sometimes violence works.

      1. Cian

        London government in 1973: Here’s the Sunningdale Agreement; NI says no.
        London government in 1998: Here’s the Sunningdale Agreement Good Friday Agreement; NI says yes.

      2. Charger Salmons

        So what you’re saying is by bombing a few buildings in London the IRA, infiltrated from the top down by MI5, agreed to the peace process that brought an end to their 30 year killing campaign but not one step closer to their aim of a united Ireland.
        Some capitulation by the Empire …

        1. Joe F

          Any chance of answering my question from yesterday old boy, before you spout any more of your pro British rubbish

        2. Nigel

          Jesus, they had completely infiltrated the IRA? What was going on? Did all those MI5 agents keep the IRA going because they didn’t know the rest of them were also MI5? carrying out operations together, bombing London… – GK Chesterton wept.

          1. Charger Salmons

            From ‘ we demand a united Ireland by any means and whatever cost in life ‘ to Jarry posting photos of his teddy bear.
            Up the revolution !

          2. Nigel

            According to you, they all were! All those MI5 agents carrying out all those shootings and bombings… blimey.

        3. Toby

          What I’m saying is the IRA b brought an empire to its knees by attacking their Monuments of Capitalism in Canary Wharf, and the garden of 10 Downing st.

          They Beat the Brits. They showed minorities what is possible with courage and persistence.

          And if M15 infiltrate them, it didn’t do them much good.

          And today England is a wasteland. Friendless, broke and infected.

          1. Charger Salmons

            ‘ brought an empire to its knees ‘

            *** holds sides while he guffaws ***

          2. Toby

            Completely and utterly embarrassed them.

            Friendless. Broke. Divided. Infected. Cancelled.

            The IRA whupped your ass. Good and proper.

            Shame on you.

          3. Charger Salmons

            Any news on that united Ireland ?
            Or are you settling for the score draw ?

            *** tears running down cheeks with laughter ***

          4. Toby

            We watched your tanks go home, we took your watchtowers down. You apologised to us. you asked for forgiveness.

            Now you are small and alone.

            Such is the price of greatness.

    2. Joe F

      Any chance of answering my question from yesterday old boy, before you spout any more of your pro British rubbish

      1. Joe F

        You seem to have a problem that the British didn’t get to take over Ireland old boy.

  2. Junkface

    Tearing down statues is obviously the solution to all of societies problems. Amending laws and reform is just playing around.

    1. Commenter #1

      What law amendment and/or reform would address the issue of statues of confederates/slave-owners in public places?

      1. Rob_G

        A vote, by representatives of municipality in question, elected by the people of said municipality, to remove the offending statue(s).

  3. Junkface

    I’m talking about Police reform in the USA, and changing the way black people are prosecuted and imprisoned. You know, actual problems that black people face in the real world.

    Confederacy statues of blatant racists and slave traders should come down, but not George Washington, Jefferson, or Ulysses S Grant. Same goes for Churchill in England, he helped defeat the Nazis! Going back centuries or just under many have a complex history. You cannot hold those men up to modern standards, that’s just dumb.

    1. Commenter #1

      “Confederacy statues of blatant racists and slave traders should come down.”

      “Same goes for Churchill in England, he helped defeat the Nazis!”
      I look forward to the installation of statues of Joseph Stalin across London and Washington DC with bated breath!

    2. Nigel

      Arguments about Confedeate statues have been going on for decades in parts of the US, and are often tied up with issues of local political control and representation and the supression of democracy through gerrymandering and restrictive rules that concentrate power for usually Republican officials.

      I don’t think anyone actually called for the statue of Churchill to be taken down.

        1. Commenter #1

          Exactly the point. In many cases activists have been going through the mechanisms that Rob G advocates for years without result. These cases demonstrate the potential for popular action to effect positive change. And it is positive; getting rid of statues of confederates is a Good Thing.

          1. Rob_G

            Who gets to decide what’s ‘positive’ – I’m sure that the yahoos that wrecked the Frederick Douglass statue thought their action represented a very positive development.

          2. Nigel

            You do. It’s literally up to you to decide. And me, and Commenter and anyone else with the ability to tell right from wrong, positive from negative. We do not have to abstract actions to the point of moral paralysis unless we chose to, which is a moral choice in itself.

        2. Rob_G

          Probably not; it would be perfectly possible to hold mass protests against these emblems without actually seeking to destroy them all.

          Georgia removed the confederate flag from it’s state flag in 2003, many confederate statues have been removed in Viriginia in the last few years; this de-confederatisaion has been going on for many years without resort to the mob.

          1. Rob_G

            Was it a good thing to remove the Douglass statue? I certainly don’t think so, but those other lads did, so they went ahead and did it anyway. If it’s a free for all and everyone gets to destroy things that they don’t like, probably a lot of things that you and I like would end up being destroyed.

          2. Commenter #1

            Nothing i “like” has been destroyed. I didn’t know that Douglass statue existed. I do know that statues of confederates have been a real problem for some communities in the US for good reason, and it’s good that they are going.

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