Few people know that the original Statue of Liberty was a Black Slave in shackles!
Soulclap to Jamia Shephard and Dr. Angela Molette for bringing OURStory (not "his"-story) to our attention. Dr. Molette points out that French Abolitionists (anti-slavery proponents and supporters of John Brown) were among the monument’s creators ... and this was the most compelling and overriding reason for creating the statue as a Black slave in shackles. The idea for the Statue of Liberty was born of a shared historical connection between Egypt (the original intended recipient of the Statue) and African slaves in America for whom the tribute to liberty and freedom was delivered.
It is worth noting that the final product delivered to America had significant changes that can be attributed to white privilege, arrogance, jealousy and financial pressure. This little-known history is discussed in an entry on the original Statue of Liberty documented by Dr. Leroy Vaughn in his book, 'Black People & Their Place in World History'.
The excerpt reads:
"In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte stated that history was only 'a lie agreed upon.' Nothing could be more illustrative than the history of the Statue of Liberty originally called 'Liberty Enlightening the World.' The liberation of African American slaves was the only inspiration for the creation of a Statue of Liberation for Edouard Rene LeFebvre DeLaboulaye. He recruited a young sculptor, Frederick Auguste Bartholdi to create a Black female slave Statue holding a broken chain in her left hand and with broken chains of slavery at her feet.The official web site of the Statue of Liberty states that the statue was given to the people of the United States by the people of France as an expression of friendship and to commemorate the centennial of American Independence (1776). The Encyclopedia Britannica states Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty as a monument to the Franco-American alliance of 1778.
These are absolute and total lies!
Victor Hugo and Edouard DeLaboulaye were leaders of the French Abolitionist movement. They hated slavery and were in strong support of John Brown when he attempted to arm slaves in West Virginia for rebellion by raiding the armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859. After John Brown failed and was hanged, Hugo and DeLaboulaye took up a collection among the French people and presented a gold metal to John Brown’s widow.
After Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States in 1861, the French liberals and abolitionists including Hugo, Bartholdi, and DeLaboulaye urged Lincoln to free the slaves even if Civil war resulted. Lincoln was told: “You would become the first country in history to have fought a war against itself to free the internal slave and you would go down in history as a truly great country and a beacon of light to all freedom loving people.”
The French abolitionists saw the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as a worthless piece of paper since it only freed slaves in the Confederate controlled states where Lincoln had no jurisdiction and not in Union controlled states where Lincoln was still in authority.
When the war ended in 1865, French abolitionists were extremely happy and in addition to again urging Lincoln to free all slaves, DeLaboulaye and Bartholdi requested permission to build and dedicate a monument of colossal statuary to that freeing of all slaves in America. When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, DeLaboulaye again headed the abolitionists’ committee that presented a gold medal to Mrs. Lincoln, just as he had done for the widow of John Brown.
In addition to a staunch abolitionist, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) was an outstanding French sculptor. Bartholdi trained to be an architect in Alsace and Paris and then studied painting with Ary Scheffer and sculpture with J.F. Soitoux. Bartholdi’s life and ideas changed dramatically after 1855 when he toured Egypt and witnessed the magnificent colossal monuments and statues created by the ancient Black Egyptians.
In 1871, Frederic Bartholdi at the urging of DeLaboulaye undertook a voyage to America to sell his idea of a colossal statue clearly symbolizing the end of chattel slavery in the United States. He was armed with a large terracotta statue and numerous drawings to clearly illustrate his proposed Statue of Liberty. 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. 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.
On May 18, 1986 during the centennial celebration, The New York Times joined The New York Post in describing the original Statue of Liberty and the intention of DeLaboulaye and Bartholdi in presenting this statue to America. It’s unconscionable that the Encyclopedia Britannica and the official Statue of Liberty literature can still lie and say that this is a monument celebrating American Independence of 1776 or Franco-American alliance of 1778. Dr. Jack Felder sums it up clearly:
"Once in place, Miss Liberty received a new meaning. She was hailed as the ‘Mother of White Exiles,’ greeting European immigrants seeking freedom in America. Nothing in the original conceptions of Bartholdi or DeLaboulaye envisioned this role for their stature."I hope that you think about this blog post next time you see the Statue of Liberty.