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    A Little Known Fact - The Statue of Liberty Wears Shackles

    For over a hundred and twenty years the Statue of Liberty has greeted immigrants to these shores with open arms and the promise of the kind of freedom that they had never known. As a result, that towering, stately, and majestic lady has come to represent the quintessential symbol of freedom, liberty, and justice for people all over the world. Just the sight of her brought hope and inspiration to millions of European immigrants as they entered New York Harbor, and that initial vision sustained them as they started their new lives in America.

    The scene must have seemed surreal as their boats slowly moved past her in the harbor. Oceans of tears must have flowed as the immigrants stared in awe at this magnificent lady. In her right hand she held the burning flame of passion and enlightenment - outstretched and high, as though reaching for the very face of God. In her left arm she held the tablet that represents the rule of law, and the guarantee of equal justice for all, and on her right foot, the broken shackle of a freed slave. That's right - millions of European immigrants were welcomed to America by the statue of a freed slave.
    On the pedestal upon which she stood, were the words that had inspired their journey. It says... "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse to your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Those magnificent words inspired millions over the years, yet, ironically, rang shallow for the very people this magnificent lady was created to represent.
    As a child in school I was taught that the idea of the Statue of Liberty was conceived by a Frenchman, Edouard Laboulaye, as a monument to the collaboration and friendship of the United States and France during the Revolutionary war, and that it was sculpted by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. But at the urging of one of our readers I revisited the issue, and did a little research. As a result, I found that Laboulaye did indeed conceive of the Statue of Liberty, but not as a monument to the Revolutionary War. The Statue of Liberty was conceived as a monument to the end of slavery, and to honor those men, women and children who had been enslaved.
    Laboulaye conceived of the Statue of Liberty in 1865. That was a hundred years after the Revolutionary War, but it just happened to be the very year that the Civil War came to an end. And it also turns out that Laboulaye wasn't just any Frenchman - he was not only an abolitionist who had dedicated his entire life to the abolishment of slavery, he was a leader of the French abolitionist movement. In addition, the sculptor who actually created the Statue of Liberty, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was connected with the abolitionist movement as well.
    In an Associated Press interview, Richard Newman, a research officer at Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research is quoted as saying, "It is widely believed in academic circles that Laboulaye meant for the statue to honor the slaves, as well as mark the recent Union victory in the Civil War and the life of Abraham Lincoln."
    The Statue of Liberty wasn't actually completed until 1886, but there's a 21 inch replica of the statue that was completed in 1870 on display at the Museum of the City of New York. That replica, or, original, is not white, it's terra cotta (brownish-orange), and it is said to have been designed in the likeness of a Black woman. In addition, the replica has a broken shackle around her left hand. The 151 foot statue in New York Harbor has a more . . . Discrete shackle around her foot.
    The words at the base of the Statue of Liberty from the poem, "The New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus wasn't added to the statue until 1903, during a time when there was a huge surge in European immigration, and that's when the fiction began. During an interview with the Associated Press, Rebecca M. Joseph, a Boston-based Park service anthropologist is quoted as saying, "There is wide agreement that Liberty's now-familiar association with immigration was not planned by the statue's creators."
    Nevertheless the thoroughly ironic scene of European immigrants weeping as they passed the Lady's flame must have played out thousands of times. It's the stuff that movies are made of - and just like most movies, the irony of a magnificent subplot churned discretely beneath the surface. One of the ironies is that now, many the grandchildren of some of those very same immigrants - those indigent immigrants that Lady Liberty welcomed into this country with open arms - have used voting fraud, unfair labor practices, redlining, blatant discrimination, and every other device, in an attempt to undermine the very people that we now know the Lady was originally created to embrace.
    So irony is the operative word in this piece, and exquisite in its irony is the deplorable state of ingratitude of many of the people that this magnificent symbol of Black liberation welcomed to the country. It is all but a complete indictment on human nature that some of the very same people that Lady Liberty served as a symbol of hope, and who she welcomed to this country as literal vagrants, would now attempt to slam the door of hope and justice on the very people that she was created to enshrine.
    Considering that ironic twist brought a tear to my eye as I researched this issue, because as a kid, I couldn't help but be awed by the majesty of that Lady - and that was in spite of the fact that I thought she was created for everybody but people like me. But now to find that she was created specifically for me, and even that was stolen, is almost too much to bear. Just think of how many young Black lives might have been saved or salvaged by just the simple nudge to their self-esteem that something so grand and majestic was created as a tribute to them and their struggle. That knowledge alone could have given them the sense of pride, dignity, and purpose that might very well have sustained them throughout their lives.
    But in spite of that, or maybe because of it, the Lady continues to hold her flame high as a tantalizing subplot silently plays itself out beneath the surface. For even as pernicious ingrates continued to indulged in their evil machinations, yet another immigrant quietly sailed passed the Lady's burning flame. He was a solitary young man from Kenya who presented papers in the name of Barack Obama.

    I'm sure the immigration official laughed as he examined the papers and said, "Who?" But little did he know that in one generation the entire world would be able to answer his question . . . and Lady Liberty would Smile, as she continued to raise her burning flame of justice, toward the face of God.
    Life is indeed ironic, isn't it?

    Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.



    Have always loved Lady Liberty and always cringed at that excerpt of Lazarus's poem. Describing the individuals and families who had the hope and fortitude to leave their familiar worlds for an unknown new one as 'huddled masses' just sounds wrong.


    Can you imagine the typical cold crossing the Atlantic or waiting long hours in line at Ellis Island? I figured it was huddled to keep from freezing.

    No, not really, but I do try to imagine what it was like for the mother of one of the last of my ancestors to immigrate. He was born at sea on a tall ship en route from Ulster to Charleston. He was also so proud of that fact he had it inscribed on his tombstone along with a relief of a tall ship. :-D.


      I don't think "huddled masses" is objectionable, but I have a problem with "wretched refuse".

    Guess you didn't come up in the punk era - sounds like a good name for a band ;-)

    (drop the w and add a few umlauts if you're into glam metal....)

    Great post. Thanks for reminding us of the true reason for the statue.

    It's also known that 19th century bloggers and politicians griped about it:

    (1) that the French were giving Lady Liberty as a charity gift, made by some fancy French artists, and real 'mericans don't like charity or high falooting French artistes.

    (2) for petes sake it was some woman with a torch, not a General with a sword.

    (3) that 'mericans would have to dip into their pockets for constructing the pedestal to support it.

    Governor Cleveland of NY vetoed $50K of state $ to finish the project, and the US Congress failed to pass a Bill for $100k to do the same. Gov Cleveland later led the dedication of the finished project, for which he had vetoed funding, proving politicians then were as much or more a horses ass as they are now. link

    Joseph Pulitzer of newspaper fame finally contributed $$$$, and started a fund that raised thousands of donations from 'little people' to complete the job.

    The shackles:

    NCD, You said,

    "Governor Cleveland of NY vetoed $50K of state $ to finish the project, and the US Congress failed to pass a Bill for $100k to do the same. Gov Cleveland later led the dedication of the finished project, for which he had vetoed funding, proving politicians then were as much or more a horses ass as they are now. link

    "Joseph Pulitzer of newspaper fame finally contributed $$$$, and started a fund that raised thousands of donations from 'little people' to complete the job."

    Thank you for this information. I wish I’d had it before I wrote the article, but it’s going to come in real handy is discussing the stinginess of today’s GOP.

    Sometimes I get very frustrated when posting to the net, because there’s a lot of pettiness going on, but it’s people like you that keeps me optimistic about it value. It’s a place where you can not only educate, but be educated.



    This is most probably the best thing I have read for awhile.

    A Black Woman in shackles.

    I have seen docs presenting this Statue and I have read articles on the subject...but I never even knew about shackles.

    You really have me thinking right now.

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