"I thought he should be standing, but I also believe he is rising, rising out of bondage," Frederick Douglass re-enactor Nathan Richardson says about the unshackled freed slave seen below Abraham Lincoln in the Emancipation Memorial statue.
During protests on Friday, many called for the memorial to be taken down, but Richardson/Douglass argued that it should stand.
"You understand, this monument was paid for by free people, colored soldiers who gave their pennies and nickels so this monument could be erected," he said.
Richardson, as Douglass, tried to educate the crowd on the memorial's history by reciting Douglass' words on April 14, 1876 - when the statue was dedicated.
I cannot forget that no such demonstration would have been tolerated here 20 years ago. The spirit of slavery and barbarism, which still lingers to blight and destroy in some dark and distant parts of our country, would have made our assembling here the signal and excuse for opening upon us all the flood gates of wrath and violence. That we are here in peace today is a compliment and a credit to American civilization, and a prophecy of still greater national enlightenment and progress in the future.
I refer to the past not in malice, for this is no day for malice; but simply to place more distinctly in front the gratifying and glorious change which has come both to our white fellow citizens and ourselves, and to congratulate all upon the contrast between now and then; the new dispensation of freedom with its thousand blessings to both races, and the old dispensation of slavery with its ten thousand evils to both races — white and black. In view, then, of the past, the present, and the future, with the long and dark history of our bondage behind us, and with liberty, progress, and enlightenment before us, I again congratulate you upon this auspicious day and hour.