The Statue of Liberty was created to celebrate freed slaves, not immigrants, its new museum recounts
Lady Liberty was inspired by the end of the Civil War and emancipation. The connection to immigration came later.
The new Statue of Liberty Museum in New York Harbor boasts a number of treasures: the original torch, which was replaced in the 1980s; an unoxidized (read: not green) copper replica of Lady Liberty’s face; and recordings of immigrants describing the sight of the 305-foot monument. It also revives an aspect of the statue’s long-forgotten history: Lady Liberty was originally designed to celebrate the end of slavery, not the arrival of immigrants. Ellis Island, the inspection station through which millions of immigrants passed, didn’t open until six years after the statue was unveiled in 1886. The plaque with the famous Emma Lazarus poem — “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — wasn’t added until 1903. “One of the first meanings [of the statue] had to do with abolition, but it’s a meaning that didn’t stick,” Edward Berenson, a history professor at New York University and author of the book “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story,” said in an interview with The Washington Post.
[Trump adviser Stephen Miller was right about the Statue of Liberty’s famous inscription] The monument, which draws 4.5 million visitors a year, was first imagined by a man named Édouard de Laboulaye. In France, he was an expert on the U.S. Constitution and, at the close of the American Civil War, the president of a committee that raised and disbursed funds to newly freed slaves, according to Yasmin Sabina Khan, author of the book “Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.”
Laboulaye loved America — often giving speeches described by a New York Times correspondent in 1867 as “feasts of liberty which move the souls of men to their deepest depths” — and he loved it even more when slavery was abolished. In June 1865, Laboulaye organized a meeting of French abolitionists at his summer home in Versailles, Berenson said.
“They talked about the idea of creating some kind of commemorative gift that would recognize the importance of the liberation of the slaves,” Berenson said.
theory has her face being adapted from a statue Bartholdi had proposed for the Suez Canal, meaning her visage could resemble that of an Egyptian woman. The Timesreported she was based on the Roman goddess Libertas, who typically wore the type of cap worn by freed Roman slaves. In the final model, Lady Liberty holds a tablet inscribed with the Roman numerals for July 4, 1776. The broken chains are still there though, beneath her feet, “but they’re not all that visible,” Berenson said.
National Park Service. And sailing into New York Harbor, he spotted the perfect location for it: Bedloe’s Island, then occupied by the crumbling Fort Wood.
Fundraising in both France and the United States took awhile, and according to the NPS, Bartholdi cast the project in the broadest terms possible to widen the net of potential donors. He also built the torch-bearing arm to tour around and inspire people to open up their wallets.
Left to right: The bust of the Statue of Liberty on display in Paris in 1884 before it was shipped to the United States. The statue towers over Paris rooftops in 1884. The right arm of the statue on display in Philadelphia in 1876. (AP)
Bartholdi finished building the statue in Paris in 1884. Two years later, he oversaw its reconstruction in New York. “Liberty Enlightening the World” was “unveiled” on Oct. 28, 1886 — but that did not involve a very big sheet. Instead, there were fireworks, a military parade, and Bartholdi climbing to the top and pulling a French flag from his muse’s face. By then, “the original meaning of the abolition of slavery had pretty much gotten lost,” Berenson said, going unmentioned in newspaper coverage.
In fact, black newspapers railed against it as meaningless and hypocritical. By 1886, Reconstruction had been crushed, the Supreme Court had rolled back civil rights protections, and Jim Crow laws were tightening their grip.
In his book, Berenson quotes an 1886 editorial in the black newspaper the Cleveland Gazette: “Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the ‘liberty’ of this country is such as to make it possible for an industrious and inoffensive colored man in the South to earn a respectable living for himself and family … The idea of the ‘liberty’ of this country ‘enlightening the world,’ or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.”
W.E.B. Du Bois also mentioned this in his autobiography, recalling seeing the statue upon arriving back in the United States in 1894 after two years in Europe: “I know not what multitude of emotions surged in the others, but I had to recall [a] mischievous little French girl whose eyes twinkled as she said: ‘Oh, yes, the Statue of Liberty! With its back toward America, and its face toward France!’” There were immigrants on board that ship with Du Bois, but he didn’t talk to any of them. The ship was segregated.
D. The Period of Roman Intervention (221-189)
31. PHILIP V AND LARISA
This inscription contains two letters of Philip V of Macedon and two decrees of the Thessalian city of Larisa. Philip is here trying to help resuscitate the city after the damage it suffered during the last months of the Social War (220-217). At the same time he has the Romans very much on his mind, as the noteworthy reference to them in the second letter indicates. In the year before the second letter belongs the battle of Cannae and the start of negotiations between Philip and Hannibal.
The tagoi being Anankippos son of Thessalos, Aristonous son of Eunomos, Epigenes son of Iason, Eudikos son of Adamas, Alexias son of Klearchos; the gymnasiarch being Aleuas son of Damosthenes; Philip the king has sent the following letter to the tagoi and the city:
King Philip to the tagoi and the city of the Larisaeans greeting. When Petraios and Anankippos and Aristonous returned from their embassy, they revealed to me that your city too is in need of more inhabitants on account of the wars.Until we shall consider that others too are worthy of your state, for the present it is my decision that you pass a decree in order that citizenship may be given to those of the Thessalians or the other Greeks who dwell among you. For when this has been accomplished and all have remained together on account of the kindnesses, I am convinced both that many other useful things will accrue both to me and to the city and also that the land will be worked to a greater extent. Year 5, the 21st day of Hyperberetaios.
The city has voted the following decree: On the 26th day of Panamos, a special assembly having taken place with all the tagoi presiding; since Philip the king has sent a letter to the tagoi and the city, (saying) that Petraios and Anankippos and Aristonous, when they returned from their embassy, revealed to him that our city is in need of more people to inhabit it on account of the wars; (he says that) until he shall consider that others are worthy of our state, for the present it is his decision that we pass a decree in order that citizenship may be given to those of the Thessalians and the other Greeks who dwell among us; (and he says that) when this has been accomplished and all have remained together on account of the kindnesses, he is convinced both that many other useful things will accrue to him and to the city and that the land will be worked to a greater extent; it is decreed by the state to act in regard to these matters according to what the king wrote, and to give citizenship to those of the Thessalians and the other Greeks who dwell among us, both to them and to their descendants, and that all other rights should belong to them, as many as belong to the Larisaeans, each choosing the tribe of which he wishes to be a member; and that this decree is to be valid for all time, and that the treasurers shall pay for it and the names of those enrolled as citizens to be inscribed upon two stone stelae, and shall set up one in the temple of Apollo Kerdoios, and the other on the acropolis, and shall pay whatever expense arises from this.
And later Philip the king sent another letter, the following, to the tagoi and the city; the tagoi being Aristonous son of Eunomos, Eudikos son of Adamas, Alexippos son of Hippolochos, Epigenes son of Iason, Nymeinios son of Mnasias; the gymnasiarch being Timounidas son of Timounidas:
King Philip to the tagoi and the city of the Larisaeans greeting. I learn that those who were enrolled as citizens in accordance with my letter and your decree and who were inscribed on the stelae have been struck out. If indeed this has happened, those who advised you have missed the mark regarding what is of benefit for (your) fatherland and regarding my decision. For that it is the fairest thing of all for the city to grow strong, with as many as possible having a part in the state, and for the land to be worked not badly, as is now the case, I believe that not one of you would disagree, and it is also possible to look at the others who make use of similar enrolments of citizens, among whom are the Romans, who receive into the state even slaves, when they have freed them, giving them a share in the magistracies, and in such a way not only have they augmented their own fatherland, but they have also sent out colonies to almost seventy places. So even now I still call upon you to get on with the business without rivalry, and to restore to citizenship those selected by the citizens; but if any (of them) have done anything irremediable against the throne or the city or for any other reason are not worthy to have a part in this stele, (I call upon you) to postpone consideration of them until I shall hear their cases after returning from my campaign; announce, however, to those intending to bring accusations against these (that they take care) not to show themselves as doing this out of rivalry. Year 7, the 31st day of Gorpiaios.
The city has voted the following decree: On the last day of Themistios, Alexippos presiding (over the meeting) concerning sacred affairs, Alexippos having spoken, it is decreed by the state: the tagoi are to set up in the town center a whitened tablet on which they have inscribed the names of as many of the rest of those enrolled as citizens in accordance with the letter of the king, and the letters of the king, and the decrees – both the previous one and today’s – (the tagoi) are to have inscribed on two stone stelae and to set these up, the one in the temple of Apollo Kerdoios and the other on the acropolis in the temple of Athena; and the treasurers are to provide the expenditure arising for this out of the public revenues; and this decree is to be valid for all time.
The following have been enrolled as citizens in accordance with the letters of the king and the decrees of the city: (There followed here a list of names; those that survive include one from Samothrace, 142 from Krannon, and more than sixty from Gyrton.)
113. These were involved in the negotiations that resulted in the peace of Naupaktos in August, 217 (see Chr. Habicht in Ancient Macedonia [Thessaloniki 1970] 277-8).
114. The reference is to the fighting in Thessaly near the end of the Social War (summer, 217: cf. Polybius 5.99-100).
115. About September, 217. For the dating (year 5 and not year 2) and the year (217) see Habicht, op.cit., 273-9.
115. About September, 217. For the dating (year 5 and not year 2) and the year (217) see Habicht, op.cit., 273-9.
116. Philip’s information on Rome is not altogether exact. Freed slaves did obtain citizenship but could not themselves hold magistracies (for the text here, cf. Habicht, op.cit. 273 n. 1), and seventy colonies is, by any method of reckoning, excessive.
117. Above all at Messene; cf. Polybius 7. 10 ff. At precisely this time Philip’s negotiations with Hannibal were coming to a conclusion (cf. Livy 23.33-34, 38-39; Polybius 7.9 for the treaty itself).
118. About August, 215.