On April 17, 1849, Frederick Douglass delivered an address at the First African Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Jersey, at the invitation of local abolitionist leaders. The church was built on a lot that had been owned by Theodore Frelinghuysen, the seventh president of Rutgers. He donated the property to a group of African Americans who were seeking to establish the church. President Frelinghuysen also organized a group of prominent citizens to finance the building of the church, which was dedicated in 1835. The church is no longer in existence.
The athletics fields of Rutgers University-Newark currently are located on property adjoining where the church once stood. The Rutgers University Board of Governors recently announced that the athletics complex will now be known as Frederick Douglass Field. Around the corner from where the church was located and also adjoining where the athletic fields are located is the only known site of a stop on the Underground Railroad in the city of Newark.
Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers-Newark stated that “we are thrilled to be able to call these extraordinary connections to the attention of all who live in and visit Newark. Frederick Douglass intersected here with a longer history of social-justice organizing in Newark that both preceded him and followed him, up to the present day. Naming the athletics field for him would honor both a significant moment in time and its place in a longer progressive history that continues to drive our sense of mission at Rutgers University–Newark.”