A STATUE of a human rights leader created by a sculptor from Stoke on Trent has become a new focus for civil protest in America.
On Wednesday 18th November, the statue of Frederick Douglass, a former slave as well as an eminent campaigner in the abolition movement, will be unveiled at the University of Maryland, U.S.A. – Douglass's birthplace.
It has been crafted by Blurton-born Andy Edwards and a touring version of the statue has already been presented to American president Barack Obama, who has name-checked Douglass as a personal hero.
But even before the statue was officially unveiled, it was being used as a focal point for students protesting about racism in American schools and colleges, using the Twitter hashtag, #blackoncampus.
Hundreds of students gathered alongside the statue to demand the name of the university's Byrd Stadium be changed, so that it no longer honours H.C. 'Curley' Byrd, a former president of the university, regarded as a racist and a segregationist.
Andy – whose previous works include a depiction of the 1914 Christmas truce, statues of Muhammad Ali, Brian Clough and Stanley Matthews said: "Before the statue was unveiled it had already become a rallying point for students protesting over civil rights.
"There were 500 people in front of the statue protesting to try to change the name of the football stadium.
"I started working on that statue in 2011, to coincide with a visit of Barack Obama to Ireland. I actually used his hand (as a model) in the statue. A touring version of the statue, made of fibreglass, was presented to Obama in Dublin. But the original funding was withdrawn in controversial circumstances.
Funding for the 8ft tall statue, cast in bronze, with a black granite base, in the end came from the American university. It is part of a $600,000 scheme to develop Frederick Douglass Square, outside its Hornbake Library.
The statue, which weighs about half a ton, was shipped out to America from the UK.
Andy said: "Frederick Douglass is the Father of the civil rights movement. His influence and heroism are unequalled. Most depictions show him when he was older, but this statue is really youthful and dynamic. It is full of quotes from him. You will recognise many famous quotes, that many people didn't know he was the first to say.
We are looking at putting a second statue in Ireland, where he met Daniel O'Connell.
Patrick O'Shea, vice president and chief research officer for the Division of Research at the university, told The Diamond-back, the University of Maryland's student newspaper: "There's some other statuary here, but this is going to be quite different, It's so dynamic.
"He was one of the first people to deal with human rights on a broader scale.
The statue presents Douglass mid-speech with one arm outstretched and a copy of his autobiography tucked under the other. He is pictured in his mid-20s, at the time when he found refuge in Ireland after his book was published in America – and a warrant for his arrest was issued as an escaped slave.
Architecture Dean David Cronrath, who assisted in completing the University of Maryland's Frederick Douglass Square, said: "The statue's presence relays the university's mission to its onlookers."
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