Fact check: U.S. didn't reject an earlier version of Statue of Liberty that honored slaves (2023)

The claim: The U.S. rejected France's first gift of a statue of liberty, which was extended as a tribute to freedom of former Black slaves, and replaced with the statue that now graces New York harbor

A post by a Facebook user claims that France had originally given a much different statue of liberty to the United States,honoring freed Black slaves, but that it was rejected and replaced by the current statue.

The post, which included a #BlackHistoryMonth hashtag,is imposed over a photo of a statue of a Black woman holding a lantern in her left hand, intimatingthat it was the one purportedlyrejected.

On its face, the claim is false, as France gave the U.S. only one statue, and it resides in New York Harbor. It was the only monument offered by the French.

Lady Liberty's history

In any case, the post involves two elements related to the statue: first,the proposal for a gift by France to the U.S., made by Edouard de Laboulaye, aFrench political thinker, U.S. Constitution expertand an abolitionist; and second, the creation of thestatue by an artist he commissioned, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi.

Edward Berenson, author of "Statue of Liberty: A Translatlantic Story," published in 2012, writes that Bartholdi’s concept morphed from “a gigantic female fellah, or Arab peasant” into “a colossal goddess.”

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That original concept was developed in1869, whenBartholdi hadproposed buildinga statue of a torch-bearing womanat the southern end of the Suez Canal.

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To prepare his proposal forIsmail Pasha, Egypt's westernizing ruler,Bartholdi studied art like the Colossus, refining the concept for the Roman goddess Libertas,according to Barry Moreno, author of severalbooks about the statue. “Taking the form of a veiled peasant woman,” writes Moreno, “the statue was to stand 86 feet high, and its pedestal was to rise to a height of 48 feet.” Early models of the statue were called “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia.”

Bartholdi did not get the commission. ThePort Saidlighthouse was erected instead.

Berenson writes thathistorians have found a series of sketches and claymodels done between 1870-71 in which the original figure of an Egyptianwoman became Roman and Greek. One model shows broken chains at the woman'sfeet, another brokenchain in her left hand. That was changed to show only the broken chain at her feet.

The National Park Service notesthat "classicalimages of liberty are often depicted in a female form. Thestatuewas modeled after Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty." The Roman version is frequentlydepicted wearing a Phrygian cap, traditionally worn by freed Roman slaves.

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Statue's meaning for America

According to the National Park Service website,Laboulayefirst proposed the idea of a great monument as a gift from France to the United States after the Union victory over the Confederacy. Amember of the French Anti-Slavery society that wasfounded in 1865, Laboulaye was a strong supporter of President Abraham Lincoln and"saw abolition not only as a way to eliminate immorality, but also as a way to protest repressive tendencies in France."

The Park Service says that when the 155-foot tall statue, officially called"Liberty Enlightening the World," was completed, "it not only represented democracy but also symbolized American independence and the end of all types of servitude and oppression."

"A broken shackle and chain lie at the Statue's right foot," the NPS says. "The chain disappears beneath the draperies, only to reappear in front of her left foot, its end link broken. However, although the broken shackle is a powerful image, the meaning behind it was not yet a reality for African Americans in 1886."

Berenson adds another twist to the story in relating that by 1871, Laboulaye had recoiled at the "immoderate" actions by America's Reconstruction regime.

"Thecautiousprofessor disliked the Radical Republicans' use of federal power to deprive former Confederates of citizenship rights while abruptly extending such rights to all adult Black men," Berenson writes. "Under Laboulaye's influence, the Statue of Liberty'searly meaning as a symbol of abolition surrendered to a new significance as a signof the return to normalcy, to American'srepublican continuitysince 1776 to the restraining authority of its Constitution, and to the majesty of the law."

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Regarding the issue of a black statue of liberty, the park servicecommissioned a report, releasedin 2000, by Dr. Rebecca M. Joseph, who was formerly the Park Service's senior anthropologist for the Northeast Region. The NPS says the report's appearance on its websitedoes not imply endorsement by the NPSorits conclusion.

Was the statueonce of a Black woman?

The report describes as a "legend"that the idea for the statue was conceived at a dinner party at Laboulaye's home in Versailles in 1865 following Lincoln's assassination.This notion, the report says, was traceable to an 1885 fundraising pamphlet written by Bartholdi after Laboulaye's death.

The report says, "Bartholdi was largely apolitical and adapted his self-presentation to advance his career as an artist."

Although Bartholdi denied any link between the final Liberty statue and his works for a Suez monument, the NPS report says, "The statue's design almost certainly 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’s preliminary design for the Statue of Liberty is consistent with contemporary depictions of Liberty, but differs markedly from sculptures representing freed American slaves and Civil War soldiers," the report finds. "Bartholdi changed a broken shackle and chain in the statue's left hand to tablets inscribed "July IV, MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776) at Laboulaye's request, to emphasize a broader vision of liberty for all mankind. There is no evidence that Bartholdi's 'original'design was perceived by white American supporters or the United States government as representing a Black woman, or was changed on those grounds."

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In addition, thereport says, the statue was associated with the Civil War and abolitionuntil near the end of the 19th century.

Regarding the issue of whether a Black woman was the original model for the statue,the report says, "The temporal proximity and aesthetic overlap between Bartholdi’s Egyptian proposal and the Statue of Liberty project, and the preliminary nature of the statue's study models, makes it impossible to rule out an 1870-71 Liberty model that has design origins in Bartholdi’s drawings of black Egyptian women in 1856."

At the same time,the report says, "Based on the evidence, the connection is coincidental to the development of the Statue of Liberty under Laboulaye’s patronage. We found no corroborating evidence that Edouard Laboulaye or Auguste Bartholdi intended to depict Liberty as a Black woman."

Regarding how the statue has been viewedhistorically by many African Americans, the park service, on a website page titled "Abolition," says that after the statue's dedication in 1886, the Black press "began to debunk romantic notions of the Statue of Liberty and American History."

For African Americans, the statue was not viewed as a symbol of democratic government or enlightenmentideals "but rather a source of pain."

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Our ruling: False

We rate this claim FALSE because it was not supported by our research. Our investigation confirms that there was only one Statue of Liberty given to the U.S. by France and finds no evidence that it rejected an earlier version that had been intended as a tribute to former Black slaves.

Our fact-check sources:

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.


Does the Statue of Liberty represent slavery? ›

In 1886, The Statue of Liberty was a symbol of democratic government and Enlightenment ideals as well as a celebration of the Union's victory in the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

What is the original Statue of Liberty black? ›

Was the original model for the Statue of Liberty a black woman? Most versions of the Black Statue of Liberty rumor refer to a cast (c. 1870) of a no longer extant maquette owned by the Museum of the City of New York as proof that “the original model” for the Statue of Liberty was a black woman.

What are 5 facts about the Statue of Liberty? ›

5 Things You May Not Know About the Statue of Liberty
  • The statue represents a Roman Goddess. ...
  • The crown's spikes represent the oceans and continents. ...
  • Lady Liberty is struck by lightning 600 times every year. ...
  • Gustave Eiffel helped to build it. ...
  • Lady Liberty's face is modelled on the artist's mother.

What hidden messages are in the Statue of Liberty? ›

Did you know that a secret box is buried under the Statue of Liberty? Inside is a copy of the U.S. Constitution, a portrait of the statue's designer, and 20 bronze medals, like this one of George Washington.

What was the real reason we got the Statue of Liberty? ›

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, made its way to America on June 17, 1885. The French people, in honor of the alliance between the two countries during the American Revolution, presented the statue to recognize America as a champion of liberty and encourage the French to support the same ideals.

Was the Statue of Liberty originally meant for the US? ›

The Early Stages

In 1865, a French political intellectual and anti-slavery activist named Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that a statue representing liberty be built for the United States. This monument would honor the United States' centennial of independence and the friendship with France.

Why are there 2 statues of liberty? ›

Answer and Explanation: There are two genuine statues and several lesser versions of the Statue of Liberty. The original and most famous is the one located on Liberty Island, a gift from the French to America. The second is located in Paris, France, and was a reciprocal gift from the United States in 1889.

Who is the real Statue of Liberty? ›

So who was the Statue of Liberty modeled after? Quite likely, a mixture of all of these: Augusta Charlotte Bartholdi, the Roman goddess Libertas, a peasant, and that extra inspiration in the artist's own mind.

Why did they change the Statue of Liberty? ›

However, the sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi, decided that the original plan looked unnatural. He changed the arm to an angle that Berenson called "a design flaw in the Statue of Liberty right from the start."

What are 4 facts about the Statue of Liberty? ›

5 Things You May Not Know About the Statue of Liberty
  • The statue represents a Roman Goddess. ...
  • The crown's spikes represent the oceans and continents. ...
  • Lady Liberty is struck by lightning 600 times every year. ...
  • Gustave Eiffel helped to build it. ...
  • Lady Liberty's face is modelled on the artist's mother.

What are 3 details about the Statue of Liberty? ›

The statue sways 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) in the wind; the torch sways 5 inches (12.7 centimeters). Visitors climb 354 steps (22 stories) to look out from 25 windows in the crown. The statue—151 feet, 1 inch (46 meters, 2.5 centimeters) tall—was the tallest structure in the U.S. at that time.

What is written at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty? ›

A gift from the people of France, she has watched over New York Harbor since 1886, and on her base is a tablet inscribed with words penned by Emma Lazarus in 1883: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

What does the tablet on the Statue of Liberty mean? ›

He greatly admired the American fight for liberty and freedom, as well as the U.S. Constitution. As a symbol, the tablet represents a book of law. The shape isn't actually square but rather a keystone. This signifies the great importance that the rule of law has in America.

What is the irony about the Statue of Liberty? ›

In the Statue of Liberty, perhaps, lies a tribute to women, an ironic and probably unappreciated sentiment in the face of the brutal inequalities that plagued women's status at the date of Liberty's dedication and for decades afterward.

Why did Egypt reject the Statue of Liberty? ›

That's right, the world's most recognized symbol of freedom and the American dream, was originally intended for Egypt, which ultimately rejected it for being too old fashioned.

Why did some people protest the Statue of Liberty? ›

The Statue of Liberty became a potent symbol for dissenters starting with its unveiling on October 28, 1886. Suffragists objected to the use of a female statue as a symbol of liberty when real women in the U.S. didn't have the right to vote.

Is the U.S. getting another Statue of Liberty? ›

Little Lady Liberty: France Is Sending The U.S. A Second, Smaller Statue Of Liberty. A mini replica of the French-designed Statue of Liberty will reach the U.S. on July 1.

How long will the Statue of Liberty last? ›

But beneath her copper skin of a few millimeters thick, the skeleton is beginning to disintegrate. Steven Ross stated that the steel straps that hold the copper to the steel framework would pull away, along with the rivets which could pull away over a period of 100 to 200 years.

Is the Liberty Statue male or female? ›

Is the Statue of Liberty an image of a man or woman? Classical images of Liberty have usually been represented by a woman. The Statue of Liberty's face is said to be modeled after the sculptor's mother.

How much is the real Statue of Liberty worth? ›

How Much Money Is the Statue of Liberty Worth? If the Statue of Liberty's worth was valued on the material costs alone, it would be worth $227,610 as scrap metal. Which State Owns the Statue of Liberty?

Who owns the Statue of Liberty? ›

The Statue of Liberty is owned by the Government of the United States of America.

Why won t they clean the Statue of Liberty? ›

The copper which clads the Statue of Liberty has oxidized and turned green due to its exposure to the elements. This patina actually helps to protect the underlying copper cladding of the statue. If it was cleaned off, eventually the entire copper covering would be eaten away.

Why is Lady Liberty green? ›

The Statue of Liberty's exterior is made of copper, and it turned that shade of green because of oxidation. Copper is a noble metal, which means that it does not react readily with other substances. The Statue's copper is only three-thirty-seconds of an inch thick and unusually pure.

How many years did it take for the Statue of Liberty to turn green? ›

Fortunately, the plan failed. At the turn of the century, it took longer to form the color we see today's New York air, it would take about 10 years to achieve, but at the turn of the century, it was nearly 25 years before the patina was full-blown. And, America loved the blue-green look of the Lady.

What do the 25 windows in the Statue of Liberty represent? ›

There are 25 windows in the crown which symbolize 25 gemstones found on the earth. The seven rays of the Statue's crown represent the seven seas and continents of the world.

What are 3 facts about the Liberty Bell? ›

Liberty Bell facts and figures:
  • The bell is an alloy, or a mix of metals; it is made of 70% copper, 25% tin, and also has zinc, lead, arsenic, silver, and even gold.
  • It is very heavy and weighs about 2000 pounds, or 1 ton.
  • The bell is suspended on what is believed to be its original yoke of American elm wood.

Why are there 7 points on the Statue of Liberty? ›

Her crown has seven points that represent rays of light and also the seven seas and continents; the original name for the statue is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” There are broken chains, or shackles, at her feet that also symbolize her freedom. The statue was a gift to the United States from the people of France.

Does the Statue of Liberty have 4 toes? ›

The Statue of Liberty has ten toes. The statue does have two feet, although it is difficult to see them. The left foot is 25 feet long. The right foot is raised, as if the statue is going to step over the broken shackle and chains that lie at its feet, walking forward to freedom and away from bondage.

What is a few sentences about the Statue of Liberty? ›

"The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was designated as a National Monument in 1924.

What is the Statue of Liberty 3 word name? ›

The Statue of Liberty (officially named Liberty Enlightening the World and sometimes referred to as Lady Liberty) is a monument symbolising the United States.

What does I lift my lamp beside the golden door mean? ›

It's a poem welcoming those in search of freedom to America, giving them the gift of hope.

What is written on the crown of the Statue of Liberty? ›

“La Liberté éclairant le monde,” or “Liberty Enlightening the World.” 3. What are some other names for the Statue of Liberty?

What was the original design of the Statue of Liberty? ›

In the original design, showcased in the rendering, the Statue of Liberty is holding in her left hand a broken chain and shackle, meant to represent freedom newly achieved. The fully realized statue would place the chain and shackle, symbolically broken by Liberty, at her feet.

What is the Statue of Liberty wearing on her head? ›

Lady Liberty wears a robe and in her left hand she holds a tablet which has the date of American independence on it, and in her right hand she holds a torch aloft. On her head she wears a crown with seven spikes - each representing a continent.

What was the Statue of Liberty a symbol of in 1886 what does she symbolize today? ›

The Statue of Liberty. She is an icon, a national treasure, and one of the most recognizable figures in the world. Each year millions who cherish her ideals make the journey to experience her history and grandeur in person. She is the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom, inspiration, and hope.

How many stairs does the Statue of Liberty have? ›

From the top of the pedestal (6P), there are 162 stairs that are narrow and steep in dimension. Each step is nine (9) inches in height and eight (8) inches in length. The crown staircase is a spiral with one section ascending up and the other side descending down. This allows for a safer flow of visitor traffic.

What was the biggest problem with the Statue of Liberty? ›

The truss in statue's right shoulder had seriously weakened and was in danger of collapse. And almost half of the iron armature that supports the copper skin had corroded, in part because the statue had become, in effect, a giant battery.

What was the major problem with the Statue of Liberty? ›

The problem that most necessitated the restoration of the Statue of Liberty was galvanic corrosion of the iron armature in contact with the copper skin. Galvanic corrosion occurs when dissimilar metals are in electrical contact in the same electrolyte.

Where is the black Statue of Liberty? ›

There are, however, many renditions of what some have mistaken her to be. The photo we've printed has been falsely circulated as the original statue. It is actually the “Lady Liberty” of Freedom Point on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, a public sculpture by Theodore Bonev that was installed in 2007.

Was the Liberty Party for or against slavery? ›

The party was an early advocate of the abolitionist cause and it broke away from the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) to advocate the view that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document.

What does the Statue of Liberty freedom symbolize? ›

Her appearance designed after the Roman Goddess Libertas symbolized freedom from tyranny, while her right foot, tablet, torch, and broken chains also personified the enlightenment that our country has in providing a path towards liberty and abolishing slavery.

What does Liberty mean in slavery? ›

At its heart, liberty means renouncing the use of coercion against others.

What do the feet of the Statue of Liberty represent? ›

Originally, the sculptor planned to place the chains in the Statue's left hand, which instead became the position of her tablet. Bartholdi opted to place the chains and shackles at the feet of Lady Liberty to symbolize Liberty breaking free from bondage.

Who opposed the Liberty Party? ›

Hudson often opposed. Merging evangelical clergy with political abolitionists, the Liberty Party celebrated the church and state, and directly defied the non-resistance beliefs of E.D. Hudson. Hudson believed the American government and church clergy facilitated the expansion of slavery.

Who fought for slavery freedom? ›

By Adam Sanchez, Brady Bennon, Deb Delman, and Jessica Lovaas
Angelina GrimkéJohn BrownDavid Ruggles
William Lloyd GarrisonHarriet Forten PurvisHarriet Tubman
Harry JarvisLucretia MottElizabeth Cady Stanton
Sojourner TruthDavid WalkerFrederick Douglass
William Wells BrownElijah LovejoyJermain Wesley Loguen
5 more rows

What was the name of the anti-slavery party that was formed in 1848? ›

The Free Soil Party was a short-lived coalition political party in the United States active from 1848 to 1854, when it merged into the Republican Party.


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