Gifted To America, This Statue Held False Promises

Statue of Liberty
Shonda Buchanan
October 21, 2021

The Statue of Liberty may be well-known for its connection to immigration, but artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi created Lady Liberty in 1865 to celebrate a monumental event in American history that actually had nothing to do with immigration. And it makes sense why this secret has been kept from us.

The statue was originally commissioned to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved Black people! At the statue’s right foot, broken shackles and a chain disappear under the dress, reappearing in front of the left foot – the broken chains symbolizing freedom from slavery.

But then something messed up happened.

The direct reference to enslavement was controversial – the Civil War had just ended. The abolitionist paying for the statue asked Bartholdi to substitute chains for tablets in Lady Liberty’s hands, a more subtle reference to Moses delivering the Israelites from slavery. He thought this would keep down controversy, but something else happened instead.

The Black community hated the statue, and we let it be known publicly! Slavery had ended, but “liberty” was still not accessible to Black people. In other words, the statue was nothing but a representation of hypocrisy!

Here’s the truth: the Statue of Liberty’s symbolism is still hypocritical – on issues of enslavement OR immigration. Understanding the lies American loves to tell about itself, however, empowers us to look behind meaningless symbolism and look for true change!

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