WASHINGTON — Frederick Douglass, prominent abolitionist, writer and orator, now towers over a podium in the U.S. Capitol, a speech curled passionately in his hand.
Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner and several key members of Congress sat next to the likeness during a Wednesday ceremony in Emancipation Hall that unveiled the seven-foot bronze statue of a man who escaped the bounds of slavery to start a newspaper, advise President Abraham Lincoln and advance the cause of freedom and equality.
“He set an example for humanity that is unmatched,” said Boehner, a Republican from Ohio. “He is a man for all generations. Today we place him here, in the company of kings and explorers . . . for our leaders to gather around and seek wisdom, for our children to gaze upon and find inspiration.”
Douglass fought for human freedom throughout his life. He pushed literacy as a path to freedom, writing three autobiographies and starting The North Star newspaper. In 1877, he became a United States marshal for the District of Columbia, in 1881 was named recorder of deeds and in 1889 was named the minister and consul general to Haiti.
“It is right and fitting that Frederick Douglass – this extraordinary man, this unflinching voice for freedom, this unyielding advocate for justice – should be honored with an enduring monument,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “And it is just and proper that more than 600,000 American citizens who reside in the District of Columbia should finally have a statue representing them here in the United States Capitol.”