Why was the Statue of Liberty Really Created?
French historian Edouard de Laboulaye, chairman of the French Anti-Slavery Society, together with sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, proposed to the French government that the people of France should present the United States – through the American Abolitionist Society – the gift of a Statue of Liberty in recognition of the Black soldiers who won the Civil War in the United States, earning themselves their freedom. It was widely known then that it was Black soldiers who played the pivotal role in winning the war, and this gift was supposed to be a tribute to their prowess.
Why was the Black Statue of Liberty Rejected?
When the statue was presented to the U.S. Minister to France in 1884, it was rejected on the notion that the dominant view of the broken shackles would be offensive to a defeated U.S. South, who despised their former captives and would not want to be faced with a constant reminder of Blacks winning their freedom.
When Did This Hidden Piece of History Publicly Resurface?
Dr. Jack Felder, a biochemist, educator, author and historian, asked this startling question in a New York newspaper, the Daily Challenge (July 16, 1990):
Did you know that the original Statue of Liberty was to have been a Black woman being liberated from slavery with broken chains in her hands and at her feet and that she also had a dark Negroid face?
In the newspaper article, Dr. Felder further writes that:
Eventually, Bartholdi built a model faithful to the wishes of de Laboulaye with broken chains at her feet and a broken chain in her left hand and a distinctly Negroid face. The broken chains were to show the broken chains of slavery.
This list is of the documents of proof, presented in the same newspaper article by Dr. Felder:
1.) You may go and see the original model of the Statue of Liberty, with the broken chains at her feet and in her left hand. Go to the Museum of the City of NY, Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street write to Peter Simmons and he can send you some documentation.
2.) Check with the N.Y. Times magazine, part II_May 18, 1986. Read the article by Laboulaye.
3.) The dark original face of the Statue of Liberty can be seen in the N.Y. Post, June 17, 1986, also the Post stated the reason for the broken chains at her feet.
4.) Finally, you may check with the French Mission or the French Embassy at the U.N. or in Washington, D.C. and ask for some original French material on the Statue of Liberty, including the Bartholdi original model.
The Journey of Edouard de Laboulaye and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi in Creating the Statue of Liberty
Edouard de Laboulaye, an internationally renowned lawyer and author of a three-volume history of the United States, first presented the idea of a symbol of the end of American slavery at a dinner party in 1865, at his country home near Versailles, France, among many abolitionists including Victor Hugo and Frederick Auguste Bartholdi.
After Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1861, the French liberals and abolitionists including Hugo, Bartholdi, and Laboulaye urged Lincoln to free the slaves even if Civil war resulted.
When the war ended in 1865, French abolitionists again urging Lincoln to free all slaves, Laboulaye and Bartholdi requested permission to build and dedicate a colossal monument to symbolize the freeing of all slaves in America. The assassination of Lincoln saw a pivotal turning point for the intended Black Statue of Liberty.
In 1871, Frederic Bartholdi at the urging of Laboulaye travelled to America to promote his idea of a colossal statue symbolizing the end of chattel slavery in the United States. He took with him a large terra-cotta statue and many drawings to clearly illustrate the Black Statue of Liberty. Bartholdi found little American support for his African slave model. In 1878, as the African head of Miss Liberty first went on display at the Universal Exposition in Paris, France, rampant reaction raged throughout the American South.
Unfortunately, Bartholdi was forced to conform to specific white supremacist ideals that saw the statue evolve to the Statue of Liberty we see in New York today. The African face was re-sculptured into the face of his mother Madame Bartholdi and a tablet of law tucked into her folded arm that bears the date July 4, 1776, replaced the broken chains in the Black female slave’s left hand. Ironically, the chains were left at the feet but the meaning changed from broken American slavery to broken English tyranny.
Arguments against the Original Statue of Liberty being a Black Woman
Many Eurocentric historians have been quick to negatively respond to the emerged truth about the original Black Statue of Liberty; labeling it as a rumour at best and attacking all evidence brought forward to support the fact; however none have made as active an effort to prove that the current statue was what was originally intended. Often repetitive statements such as “no evidence” or “no support” follow statements of clear fact, but they themselves build their arguments more on rationale than evidence.
Dr. Trachtenberg, who wrote the text for the Statue of Liberty exhibition on Liberty Island and is the author of ”The Statue of Liberty” (Viking, 1976), said: ”I don’t know of any evidence that it was supposed to be a black figure initially.”
Dr. Boime of U.C.L.A. said that ”I would have pursued that belief if it had any substance, but perhaps this is a reference to the model for Bartholdi’s Suez project, which was the statue of a Nubian woman,” which was never built. A statue of a Nubian woman that was never built – again evidence in plain sight.
Some have even discredited the Civil War efforts of Black soldiers as a basis for the statue not representing the efforts of Black soldiers who won over the Civil War. However, the fact remains that without the assistance of the Black soldiers the Civil War may not have resulted in the same way.
Facts that are not Denied by Historians
French historian Edouard de Laboulaye, who originally proposed the monument, was a leader of the anti-slavery movement in his country and Frederic Bartholdi himself had connections to the abolitionist movement, as well.
Bartholdi who had visited and was inspired by Egypt, used Egypt as his principal inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.
Bartholdi’s design models for the Statue of Liberty evolved from earlier sketches by the artist of a black Egyptian women.
The original African face of the Statue of Liberty was published in The New York Post dated June 17, 1986 as part of the centennial celebration.
The original design of the statue had gone through several changes and evolved from an earlier concept Bartholdi proposed for a colossal monument in Egypt, for which the artist used his drawings of Egyptian women as models.
Bartholdi changed a broken shackle and chain in the statue’s left hand to tablets inscribed “July IV, MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776).
The original face of the statue of Liberty was dark, as copper was the chosen material of Bartholdi; copper which closely fits the skin completion of the African slaves. There are those who believe that Bartholdi knew and intended that the statue would later turn green from weathering, however it is more likely that he underestimated the drastically hard and fast damage to be caused by the weathering. There has been no attempt to restore the monumental Lady Liberty to her original copper colour.
ABC News highlighted that a 21-inch terra-cotta model by Bartholdi “designed after the likeness of a black woman” does indeed stand next to a model of the current statue in the Museum of the City of New York and around its left hand dangles a broken chain.
On review of the undisputed facts it is not so hard to believe that two Anti-Slavery Abolitionists, with a passion to see slaves in America freed and one who was greatly inspired by Egypt would create a Black Statue of Liberty to symbolize the end of slavery which Black soldiers fought hard for in the American Civil War. In fact all the evidence indicates that the original statue was modeled in the liking of a Black Egyptian woman representing freedom from slavery with her broken shackles. This historical moment in Black history was almost completely erased, by several adapted versions of the statue each closer to the acceptance of the US South and in dilution of the original intent of Bartholdi and Laboulaye. Finally the result was a statue that looks like a Roman, thus closer to Eurocentric ideals and less associated with the freedom of slaves but instead with democracy in general.
Traditional Perspective of the Statue of Liberty
The traditional view passed down the years through American educational institutions; tells that Lady Liberty was created to commemorate the friendship forged between the United States and France during the Revolutionary War. By 1903, when the statue was inscribed with Emma Lazarus’s poetic words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” it was supposed to symbolize America’s status as a safe haven for refugees and immigrants from every corner of the world. How many truly believe heartily these words?
The African-American Perspective of the Current Statue of Liberty
Suzanne Nakasian, when director of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island Foundations’ National Ethnic Campaign said that the Black Americans’ direct connection to Lady Liberty is unknown to the majority of Americans, BLACK or WHITE.
African-Americans contributed to the main fund-raising drive for the statue’s pedestal, participated in public celebrations during its dedication in New York City, along with privately organised celebrations at that time. Yet for Black Americans the Statue of Liberty has also long symbolized America’s failure to protect their civil rights. In the early 1900s, many African-Americans were victims of white supremacists and nativists who used the statue to represent their exclusionary views. Since then, continuing ambiguity among African-Americans about whether to embrace Lady Liberty as hopefully or scorn her as a symbol of American hypocrisy has been expressed in numerous works of art, political debates, and, on at least one occasion live protest. There has also been long and fierce public debate about the Immigration Museum at the Statue of Liberty, in view of the audacity that African-Americans who were brought involuntarily to America as slaves are presented as “immigrants”.
Despite being called the Statue of Liberty there is nothing which gives a sense of liberty about a Roman looking woman holding a tablet and a torch. Who is she liberating? Who has she fought for? The hardened expression on her face offers no warmth and there is certainly no national connection of Roman women in American history. Hiding the real history of the statue of liberty only serves to make a mockery of American democracy and ideals of freedom and liberation.
In, From the Statue of Liberty (Liberation) to the Statue of Bigotry, Dr. Felder cites Bartholdi’s words:
Colossal statuary does not consist simply in making an enormous statue. It ought to produce an emotion in the breast of the spectator, not because of the volume, but because its size is in keeping with the idea it interprets…
Why is the truth about the Black Statue of Liberty still rejected today? For the same reason the statue was rejected back then, no recognition is to be given to Black Americans, greater than that for Whites, no history to build African-American pride and certainly no markers of their equal standing among all men, are to exist in a society where the ruling class still holds to white supremacists ideals.
courtesy of “All Black Women”