This fourth of July got me reflecting. I was once reading a blog of Dr. Joy DeGruy (One of many phenomenal scholarly Sistas). It discussed a visit she made to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Along the tour, there were people of diverse backgrounds but for Black Americans, visiting the Statue of Liberty held no special meaning in our lives. Our families have no records in the display cases of Ellis Island. We had no option of where we wanted to be or how our families would be raised. There is no heartwarming story that we can look back on and share with our children. As Dr DeGruy has said in one of her many lectures, “America’s pathology is her denial”. The utter disregard for what many White Americans’ ancestors methodically and systematically did to our African ancestors during slavery. One of the things Dr. DeGruy discussed was the ignorance the tour guide displayed in the true history of the Statue of Liberty.
The original rendition of the Statue of Liberty, sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was of an African female slave. The design included broken chains on her left arm and feet. The features of the rendition were also closer to ethnic features of an African woman. The United States accepted the gift, but only after Bartholdi removed the chains from her arm and made her facial features more European.
If you are in NYC, check out The Museum of the City of New York. The original design of Lady Liberty can be seen there.
Picture of the chains that remain on the Statue of Liberty today but are invisible to many because of the shear height of the base of the statue alone.
Early image of the chains at Lady Liberty’s feet.