Note: This is the 18th installment of WCBS 880’s Black History Month series. For other articles, click here.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The statues of two American heroes stand at the entrances to the New-York Historical Society: President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

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As WCBS 880’s Jane Tillman noted, Douglass was an orator, a statesman, an abolitionist and, in 1838, an escaped slave.

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“Frederick Douglass became a free man in New York,” said New-York Historical Society President Louise Mirrer. “He stepped off the boat and walked down Broadway, just an ordinary human being.”

Douglass became a friend to Lincoln.

“Frederick Douglass had a huge impact on Lincoln’s thinking — not just about slavery, but about the intellectual status of black people,” Mirrer said.

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Mirrer said slavery plays such an important role in the New-York Historical Society’s mission because “slavery is not a sideshow in American history; it’s the main event.”