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Photo courtesy of Dick Uliano, WTOP.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As activists call for social justice on the nation’s college campuses,  the University of Maryland, College Park has set aside a place designed for “reflection and agitation” called Frederick Douglass Square.  

The square, situated in front of the library, features an imposing bronze statue of Douglass, the Maryland native who was born a slave and became one of the nation’s greatest voices of freedom.

The 3,250-square-foot plaza is paved in stones carved with the words of the great abolitionist.

“Today we welcome Mr. Douglass home to the state of his birth, to the place where he endured incredible hardship and remarkable enlightenment,” Bonnie Thornton Dill, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, told an audience of Douglass descendants, elected leaders, faculty and students, in unveiling the Douglass statue.

“We are humbled and honored by this dynamic, bronze statue set here upon the axis of reflection and agitation,” said Nettie Washington Douglass, great, great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass.

In what university officials regarded as a fitting tribute to Douglass, a small band of campus activists briefly seized the ceremony stage before the program began, to outline a list of campus grievances, including a demand that University of Maryland football and basketball players be paid.

The bronze statue portrays a youthful Douglass, 15 years before the start of the Civil War, his cape flowing from his shoulders, right arm thrust forward, his mouth wide-open in exhortation.

“We welcome him here not as a historical symbol, but as a living presence,” said University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. “In life, he escaped from Maryland, but today he comes home as a kind of teacher-in-residence.”

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