Fri. May 17th, 2024

We have all seen it, the great blue marker which occupies the space between Main Hall and the Francis Harvey Green Library. The tall metal placard emblazoned with yellow lettering placed there by the state of Pennsylvania forever links our university with one of the most influential and important individuals of our nation’s history. The marker informs its viewership that it was on our campus roughly 118 years ago, where the abolitionist Fredrick Douglass gave his last public address. Though in the next few weeks, this marker will be out-shown, as another monument to Douglass is erected just across the quad.
On Oct. 1 of this year, West Chester University will unveil a statue honoring Douglass, just beyond the archway of the Phillips Memorial Building. The statue will depict a younger, almost college- age version of the abolitionist, reminding the students of this campus that every great leader and public figure, was once as young as we are now, and inspiring them to strive to achieve academic and personal greatness, despite whatever adversity they, as Douglass, face. The new statue and plaza will once again connect WCU with the iconic figure and shed light on Douglass’ affinity for the West Chester area.
The statue also revisits Douglass’ close friendship with George M. Phillips, the president of West Chester Normal School from 1881-1920, for whom Phillips Memorial hall is named. On Oct. 1 the two friends will share company once more, and the quad will house a stunning physical representation honoring the great leader along with his inspiring achievements. Douglass’ connection, and his lasting legacy has forever tied this university with the fight to abolish slavery, along with his quest to promote education and social justice for all people, through the furthering of one’s education.
Douglass’ legacy is not limited solely to the past; it is constantly at work on campus through the students and faculty who are members of the Fredrick Douglass Institute. The Institute is a valuable asset to WCU, as it encourages students to be constantly open to the world of knowledge, while also inspiring students to use their thoughts and expression to seek change.
The main four functions of the FDI on campus are to conduct research on multiculturalism and on Frederick Douglass, to establish opportunities for advanced study for public and private school teachers and for members of the academic community, to sponsor distinguished exhibits, lectures and library collections, and to collaborate with historical societies and other educational and cultural agencies. This work helps to ensure that Douglass’ legacy lives on through the students at West Chester, as we strive to further our education, and bring much needed change to the world around us, just as Douglass did from his youth to his death.
The new statue erected and dedicated on Oct. 1 will serve as a lasting reminder to the current and future students of WCU to always strive for excellence and to go beyond the expectations of society, so that we may create lasting change in this world as Douglass did.
The ceremony will take place on Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. outside of the Philips Memorial Building, and is open to the public free of charge.
For more information concerning Fredrick Douglass, his connections to West Chester, and the Fredrick Institute, visit their academic website, or visit their office on the fourth floor of Francis Harvey Green Library.
Jillian Jones is a third-year student majoring in history. She can be reached at

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