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UMD dedicates new Frederick Douglass Statue | News

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UMD dedicates new Frederick Douglass Statue

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WUSA9) -- A monumental day for the University of Maryland: the school dedicated its new Frederick Douglass Statue and Frederick Douglass Square on campus.

Student protests came with that dedication ceremony. In fact, the new Frederick Douglass statue actually inspired it, according to student protesters.

"There comes a time when people get tired of trampled over by the iron feet of oppression," Colin Byrd shouted over a bullhorn surprising a few dedication ceremony attendees.

Byrd, a University of Maryland student and Black Student Union leader, rallied with fellow students calling for changes including pay to student athletes and freedom of speech for otherwise censored student athletes. The students protesting also renewed the calls to rename the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.

"There's over 300 buildings on this campus. And if Byrd stadium is renamed, it will be still less than five that are named after African Americans," said Byrd.

"I think it would be a major step for the University of Maryland to not only show respect to the black athletes who play but in the stadium, practice in a stadium who's named after a man who wouldn't want them to be here -- who vocally said on several occasions that he hated black people. I think it would be a major step in the right direction for University of Maryland when it comes to making black students on this campus feel welcome and also safe," said Moriah Ray.

"We want everyone to realize that we still feel like racism definitely exists and we're still affected by it," said Kye Hodge.

On Wednesday, students also added calls for the University's president to step down if wanted changes are not met.

"We're giving him the opportunity to do the right thing," said Byrd.

This was not the first protest of its kind on campus or at the statue. Last week, students rallied to support Mizzou students fighting racial injustice. Faculty and even the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass acknowledged this at Wednesday's statue unveiling.

"The students have already dedicated the square to the contemporary pursuit of the work of Mr. Douglass," said UMD's Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, Bonnie Thornton Dill.

"I was just very inspired to see that the young people, even before the statue had been unveiled, that it inspired them and that it became a focal point of their protest. And so it was something that when I saw the photographs, that I had to stand in solidary with them so this is why I'm in all black today," said Frederick Douglass' Great-great-great-grandson, Kenneth Morris Jr.

The University's President said he was not there to hear the students' demands earlier but argues the new statue is a step in the right direction.

"Frederick Douglass is a very important part, not just of our history, but as the descendant said, it is living history. He points forward into where we should go in the future. He teaches us every day. And yes, he teaches us that there is much more that we need to do to become a more perfect union in America," said President Wallace D. Loh.

Interestingly, President Loh said as-far-as he knows, Frederick Douglass never set foot on UMD's campus. Now he is there to stay.

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