Memorial Marker to Frederick Douglass in Jackson Park

Dedication Program announced for May 15.

To Flyer in pdf. Another flyer in Word- (not guaranteed to open). To Jackson Park/JPAC homepage.
To Chicago City Council Resolution of April 22, 2009. Introd. Ald. Hon. Leslie A. Hairston. Pic of dedication.
The marker closeup.


Frederick Douglass Commemorative Marker Dedication in Jackson Park. It was impressive.
Noon, May 15, 2009

Read the final commemorative Chronicle of Frederick Douglass Day booklet on the event in pdf (rev. of Aug. 2010, licensed to Barry Rapoport). Caution- it's nearly 9.5 MB. Includes some great depictions and maps of the Columbian Exposition. Print or inquire from about getting a hard copy. Clarification of the copyright control at bottom of page 1 therein: According to Barry, the document is under common use license and can be used with attribution and NOT for commercial purposes. The license (which cannot be inserted in the document because it's in pdf) is

<a rel="license" href=""><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="" /></a><br /><span xmlns:dct="" property="dct:title">Chronicle of Frederick Douglass Day in Chicago: May 15; 2009</span> by <a xmlns:cc="" href="" property="cc:attributionName" rel="cc:attributionURL"></a> is licensed under a <a rel="license" href="">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License</a>.

Barry's website including to view the booklet:
Barry's e-mail

Where: Jackson Park, South of the Bowling Green, southeast of the Museum.
Why: To honor the contributions of Frederick Douglass, former slave and abolitionist. As Minister in charge of the Haitian Pavilion at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, he celebrated Haitian Independence Day and the completion of the Fair’s first pavilion on this site.

Program Highlights:

• JROTC Honor Guard, School of Leadership/ South Shore Campus
• Father Carl Markelz, Principal, Mt. Carmel High School
• William Tillis, park supervisor
• Leslie A. Hairston, Alderman 5th Ward
• Christopher Reed, Prof. Emer. History, Roosevelt
• Frances Vandervoort, Vice President, Jackson Park Advisory Council, highlighting intersects of Frederick Douglass and Frederick Olmsted
• Monica Vela, M.D., Assistant Professor, Assoc. Vice-Chair for Diversity, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago
• John Tredon, Violinist
• Hooked On Drums-Youth African Drumming Ensemble (cancelled due to weather)

A brief description, by Gary Ossewaarde

May 15 noon, under a weeping sky but with great anticipation about 50 participants and guests gathered to dedicate a marker and pay homage to Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the country of Haiti and Haitians in Chicago, and Chicago's African-American heritage. These had converged at World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Frederick Douglass, noted escaped slave, abolitionist and African-American leader, author, editor, suffragist, social reformer and statesman came to Chicago during planning and construction of the Fair and in particular the Haitian Pavilion southeast of the present bowling green (by Lake Shore Drive and the 59th Marina) and spoke at the dedication of the pavilion on Haitian Independence Day January 2, 1893- the first national building completed on the grounds. From the opening of the Fair on May 15 1893 through its duration he served as Haitian minster to the Fair and talked with the many visitors of all backgrounds at the pavilion and around Chicago. He helped African Americans feel a part of the city and Fair.

Four years ago, Barry Rapoport, a then a teacher at South Shore high school's School of Leadership, learned from Christopher Reed's All the World Was Here: Black Presence at the White City of Douglass' role at the Fair and developed a project in which students would mark the outline of the Haiti pavilion and explain its significance to visitors. From this came the proposal for a permanent marker, ultimately a granite boulder with an embedded brass plaque. Barry tirelessly worked to raise funds, working with the advisory council, Alderman Hairston's (5th) office, The Park District, Parkways foundation and many others to raise the funds and ensure everything was right. The marker was prepared by Gast Monuments Inc. Rapoport and JPAC express their thanks to the many donors and volunteers.

The program, mc 'd by Rapoport, featured the JROTC Honor Guard of the School of Leadership/South Shore Campus; Father Carl Markelz, Principal, Mt. Carmel High School; Jackson Park Supervisor William Tillis, Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th), Dr. Christopher R. Reed, Professor Emeritus of History, Roosevelt University; Frances S. Vandervoort, Vice President, Jackson Park Advisory Council; Monica vela, M.D., University of Chicago Medical Center Assoc. V.P. for Diversity, and violinist John Tredon (who played Haiti's National Anthem and Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, a favorite of Douglass, himself a violinist). Hairston read an inspiring Resolution passed by City Council April 22, dedicating May 15 as Frederick Douglass Day and honoring the present event and those of 1893. We learned much about Douglass, Chicago and history from all the speakers. At the end, in the pouring rain, Ald. Hairston gallantly unveiled the monument. You can visit it along the bike path on the west side of Lake Shore Drive. The plaque reads:



MAY 15, 2009

Tribune, June 3, 2009. In Jackson Park, a monumental idea. Frederick Douglass spoke there; now a marker proves it. Douglass spoke here; now he's honored here. By Jaime Adame

There's a quiet spot in Jackson Park where a giant once stood. Frederick Douglass--renowned author, abolitionist, and former slave--certainly is celebrated in history, but is stay in Chicago in 1893 was largely forgotten until a former teacher made it his mission to create a visible reminder. A granite boulder and bronze plaque now mark the site where Douglass spoke at the World's Columbian Exposition.

"It's important to me because I don't want another generation of kids growing up without knowing that Frederick Douglass was in Jackson Park," said Barry Rapoport, 59, who spearheaded the project. Rapoport grew up near the park, and later taught Douglass's famous autobiography to Chicago public school students. But he didn't know about Douglass' stay in the city until he took a teachers' technology training session in 2005 that happened to include a computer presentation on the subject.

"I nearly fell off my chair right there in that session," Rapoport said. He went directly to the University of Chicago library to do some research. "I needed to know where in the park he was. I grew up playing in this park."

He then incorporated the visit in his history classes at South Shore High School, even developing a project that had students performing skits in the park to educate the public about Douglass. With the help of historical maps, he and other teachers marked with chalk the outline of the pavilion where Douglass spoke. After more than 25 years of teaching, Rapoport retired in the spring of 2006 "essentially to finish this project." As the United States minister to Haiti, Douglass had championed Haitian rights, which led to him being invited to be the island nation's representative at the expo. The marker, south of the park's Bowling Green and north of 59th Street Harbor, lies in the former footprint of the Haitian pavilion, a "very impressive structure" that represented much more than an emerging country for many fairgoers, said historian Christopher Robert Reed.

"It was here that the African-American citizens of the nation could visit and feel they had a home base on the fairgrounds," Reed said.

While blacks were shut out of the fair planning, many came from across the nation to attend. Douglass' speech was an event that drew blacks and whites, said Reed, author of "All the World is Here!: The Black Presence at White City," which explored the presence of blacks at the expo.

Douglass dedicated the pavilion and spoke about the potential he saw in Haiti, giving informal talks to visitors throughout the expo's six-month run. While in town, his fame and public esteem allowed him to get fast service at a downtown restaurant, much to the amazement of his dining companion, black civil rights advocate Ida B. Wells, Reed said. Douglass also spoke at several Chicago churches. He died two years after the fair, at the unofficial age of 77.

After getting the idea for the historical marker, Rapoport approached park and city officials, as well as the Jackson Park Advisory Council, which gathered hundreds of signatures during a petition drive to show support for the monument. "Everybody we talked to about what we were doing liked what we were doing," said Rapoport, who called getting the marker built a "grand collaboration." The $3,000 cost was donated by about 20 individuals and groups he said.

At a recent dedication and unveiling, Reed said, "[Douglass] stood individually for teh progress of an entire group, and he opened up doors of opportunity." Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) told the crowd that she is a direct descendant of Douglass on her father's side, and read a city resolution honoring Douglass.

The Chicago Park District was "proud to be a part of this wonderful commitment to honor a great American," said William Tillis, supervisor of Jackson Park.

Under a suit jacket, Rapoport wore a T-shirt emblazoned with a student's colorful pencil drawing of Douglass himself: "Out of ignorance will come a desire for knowledge."




At the August 11 JPAC meeting, Mr. Rapoport announced that the needed funds have been raised, a total of about $2,800+ as set after bids by Parkways Foundation. Barry Rapoport and JPAC wish to thank the Parkways Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and numerous groups and individuals for their donations. Final approvals and implementation of this now Park District project are under discussion. We thank Park District staff for their help and facilitation.

The dedication is slated for May 15, 2009, noon, south of the Bowling Green.

More on Douglass: Autobiography The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, is available at:

July 13, 2008

Barry Rapoport, a retired South Shore teacher has worked tirelessly to arrange for a memorial stone and plaque for Frederick Douglass near Jackson Park's 59th Inlet, west of Lake Shore Drive. This project, which has enthusiastic support from Jackson Park Advisory Council and Alderman Leslie A. Hairston and grew out of a school living history classroom project, is described in other pages--specifically see the Jackson Park/JPAC homepage and Columbian Exposition page--as well as various Jackson Park Advisory Council Newsletters (accessed from the JPAC homepage). The monument would stand in the footprint of the Haitian Pavilion of the 1893 Exposition, where Douglass gave the first speech of the under-construction Exposition and represented Haiti at the pavilion during the fair, as well as participating in other ways. To learn more of that and the presence of Ida B. Wells at the fair, consult Reed, Christopher Robert. The First 100 Years of Black History in Chicago. More papers are being assembled thanks to Rapoport and the Hyde Park Historical Society.

Here is Barry's brief description, including text approved by Chicago Park District, and appeal for funds to complete the project. Funds were collected through Parkways Foundation at 541 N. Fairbanks, Chicago, IL 60611. Barry's email is

Frederick Douglass Monument Project

July 13, 2008

Dear Friends,

We are writing to inform you about an important Chicago Park District Project and to ask for your participation. In paying special tribute to an important historical figure, we must raise funds to dedicate the Frederick Douglass historical marker in Jackson Park. The marker will be a granite boulder with an engraved bronze plaque. In order to complete this project we need your financial contributions. Douglass was one of the most prominent figures in American history and a formidable public presence. He was a firm believer in the equality of all people, whether black, female, American Indian, or recent immigrant. He was fond of saying, "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."


Barbara Beckham, Forestee Buss, Jeanne Marsh, Dolores Norton, Gary Ossewaarde, Seth Patner, David adn Andrea Rapoport, Morris and ruth Rapoport, Robert adn Jane Rottenburg, Robin Rich, Dr. Gordon Schiff, Ada Skyles, Frances Vandervoort, Richard Weinberg, Dr. Roy Wilson and Sarah Gehlert, Timothy Wright, Hyde Park Historical Society, The Carmelite Community/Mt. Carmel High School, Mt. Carmel Mission Club, Polk Brothers Foundation.

Special thanks to Jackson Park Advisory Council, Gast Monuments Inc., Parkways Foundation and the many volunteer who contributed their time to the project.

Jackson Park marker honors Frederick Douglass

Hyde Park Herald, May 20, 2009. By Daschell M. Phillips

The Chicago Park District and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) joined local educators, community leaders and Jackson Park Advisory Council members at jackson Park to unveil a marker commemorating Frederick Douglass last Friday.

Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, was an African-American abolitionist, woman's suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer. The Douglass commemorative Marker highlights his contribution to the opening and duration of the Haitian Pavilion at teh 18933 World's Columbian Exposition. The marker, which was unveiled by Hairston, is located on the southeast side of the Bowling Green near 58th Street and Lake Shore Drive on the site of the Haitian Pavilion where Douglass gave the opening speech fo the exposition.

Hairston, who said she recently learned that she may be a direct descendent of Frederick Douglass, read the proclamation making May 15 Frederick Douglass Day in Chicago.

The unveiling ceremony was emceed by Barry Rapoport, retired South Shore High School English teacher. After learning about Douglass's role in the exposition, Rapoport developed a project in which students from South Shore would mark the outline of the Haitian Pavilion and explain its significance to visitors. From this project, Rapoport spent the last four years working with the park advisory council, Hairston, the Park District, Parkways Foundation and many others to raise the funds for teh marker, whine is a granite boulder with an embedded brass plaque.

Christopher Robert Reed, Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University and author "All the World is Here: Black Presence at the White City," said that while he was in Chicago, Douglass spoke at pavilions and churches. He made African Americans feel like they were a part of the American tapestry and the history that was being made. "the haitian Pavilion was a place where the African American population could visit and feel they had a place on the fair grounds," said Reed. Thanks to the pavilion and the international knowledge of Douglass, African Americans and white citizens came to hear him speaks."

Jackson Park supervisor William Tillis said Douglass "displayed the courage and tenacity that we work to instill in young people today." "We are glad to have this commemorative marker to be enjoyed and studied by visitors for years to come," Tillis said.