The airport already has a terminal that is named for Douglass, alongside one named for Susan B. Anthony

By Nicholas Rice
Updated August 14, 2020 12:54 PM
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Library Of Congress/Getty; Rochester Airport/Facebook

Rochester, New York's airport will soon pay tribute to a trailblazing local.

County officials announced that the city's air hub will be renamed to Frederick Douglass-Greater Rochester International Airport to honor the famed abolitionist, according to local news outlet 13WHAM.

“To know where we are going, we must first remember where we have been,” the new legislation states. “This community’s image speaks volumes – not just about our history, but also the direction we are headed. There is potentially no greater symbol of our image than our airport, which serves as the front door to our community.”

Douglass lived in the Rochester area for 25 years. There he ran and published The North Star — a prominent anti-slavery newspaper. After his death in 1895, he was laid to rest in the city.

In addition to the new name, educational materials will also be installed throughout the building. The airport already has a terminal that is named for Douglass, as well as one named for Susan B. Anthony.

A Change.org petition calling for the renaming began gaining steam online in mid-July. It has over 5,000 signatures as of August 14.

The petition's creator Richard Glaser told the local publication RochesterFirst.com that he started the petition to help contribute to racial equity in Rochester, sharing, "Symbols are very important. Racial equity is the ball and chain we carry around our ankle."

He also notes that renaming the air hub would allow the reformer to serve as a role model for people who live in Rochester and those visiting from around the world.

"Frederick Douglass is arguably among the greatest historical figures for all the reasons that someone might win a Nobel Prize," he told the publication. "He really enshrines the values that were put out there by the Founding Fathers."

He added: "We were blessed with Douglass's presence in our community. People around the world know him, every school kid learns about Frederick Douglass. It’s time to get that symbolic recognition."

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The quest to change the airport's name comes amid a movement to honor more Black historical figures and leaders publicly, and calls to rename buildings and other institutions that pay tribute to individuals with ties to slavery and other forms of racial discrimination.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.