Statue of Liberty

sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, New York, United States

The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor, in Manhattan, New York City. The statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886, was a gift to the United States from the people of France. The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.She also holds charters of rights of man on the other hand. A broken chain lies at her feet.On the earth in the foreground of the image lie the shattered remains of absolutist institiutions.The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Thou warden of the western gate, above Manhattan Bay,
The fogs of doubt that hid thy face are driven clean away:
Thine eyes at last look far and clear, thou liftest high thy hand
To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.


  • The massive figure of a bronze woman is covered from head to foot with green oxide. The cold face looks blindly through the fog into the ocean wasteland, as though the bronze were waiting for the sun to come and bring its dead eyes to life.
  • Bartholdi produced a series of drawings in which the proposed statue began as a gigantic female fellah, or Arab peasant, and gradually evolved into a colossal goddess that resembled the ones he had contemplated in the early and mid 1860's.
  • We aren't here today to bow before the representation of a fierce warlike god, filled with wrath and vengeance, but we joyously contemplate instead our own deity keeping watch and ward before the open gates of America and greater than all that have been celebrated in ancient song. Instead of grasping in her hand thunderbolts of terror and of death, she holds aloft the light which illumines the way to man's enfranchisement. We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home, nor shall her chosen altar be neglected. Willing votaries will constantly keep alive its fires and these shall gleam upon the shores of our sister Republic thence, and joined with answering rays a stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man's oppression, until Liberty enlightens the world.
  • Since September 11, 2001, I have often thought that perhaps it was fortunate for the world that the attackers targeted the World Trade Center instead of the Statue of Liberty, for if they had destroyed our sacred symbol of democracy I fear we as Americans would have been unable to keep ourselves from indulging in paroxysms of revenge of a sort the world has never seen before. If that had happened, it would have befouled the meaning of the Statue of Liberty beyond any hope of subsequent redemption -- if there were any people left to care. I have learned from my students that this upsetting thought of mine is subject to several unfortunate misconstruals, so let me expand on it to ward them off. The killing of thousands of innocents in the World Trade Center was a heinous crime, much more evil than the destruction of the Statue of Liberty would have been. And, yes, the World Trade Center was a much more appropriate symbol of al Qaeda's wrath than the Statue of Liberty would have been, but for that very reason it didn't mean as much, as a symbol, to us. It was Mammon and Plutocrats and Globalization, not Lady Liberty.
  • Thou warden of the western gate, above Manhattan Bay,
    The fogs of doubt that hid thy face are driven clean away:
    Thine eyes at last look far and clear, thou liftest high thy hand
    To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.
  • Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
    With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
    • Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus", Emma Lazarus, Selection from Her Poetry and Prose (1944), ed. Morris U. Schappes, p. 40–41. Congress had allocated money to erect Frédéric Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, but had provided no money for a pedestal. A citizens committee invited famous authors to write appropriate words and donate their manuscripts for auction. Lazarus wrote this sonnet (1883), which can be found on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The last four and a half lines are also engraved on the wall of the reception hall of John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City. Dan Vogel, Emma Lazarus (1980), p. 157, 159.
  • Taking the form of a veiled peasant woman the statue was to stand 86 feet high, and its pedestal was to rise to a height of 48 feet.
  • You have set up in New York Harbor a monstrous idol which you call Liberty. The only thing that remains to complete that monument is to put on its pedestal the inscription written by Dante on the gate of hell: "All hope abandon ye who enter here".
    • George Bernard Shaw, The Future of Political Science in America, p. 7–8 (1933). This address was given at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, April 11, 1933, before a special meeting of the Academy of Political Science held in honor of Shaw's first visit to America.
  • The Statue of Liberty is an extension of a tradition that seems to embody the contradictions in America's promise, and a reminder that its promises have not always been extended to us. As the narrator in James Baldwin's 1960 short story "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" puts it, "I would never know what this statue meant to others, she had always been an ugly joke for me."
  • What a lot of people don’t know is that New York City, for an extended period of time, was the second-largest slave port in the country, after Charleston, South Carolina; that in 1859, on the blink of the Civil War, when South Carolina was about to secede from the Union after the election of Abraham Lincoln, that New York City’s mayor, Fernando Woods, proposed that New York City should also secede from the Union alongside the Southern states, because New York’s financial and political infrastructure were so deeply entangled and tied to the slavocracy of the South; also that the Statue of Liberty was originally conceived by Édouard de Laboulaye, a French abolitionist, who conceived of the idea of the Statue of Liberty and giving it to the United States as a gift, that it was originally conceived as an idea to celebrate the end of the Civil War and to celebrate abolition. The original conception of the statue actually had Lady Liberty breaking shackles, like a pair of broken shackles on her wrists, to symbolize the end of slavery. And over time, it became very clear that that would not have the sort of wide stream — or, wide mainstream support of people across the country, obviously this having been just not too long after the end of the Civil War, so there were still a lot of fresh wounds. And so they shifted the meaning of the statue to be more about sort of inclusivity, more about the American experience, the American project, the American promise, the promise of democracy, and sort of obfuscated the original meaning, to the point where even the design changed. And so they replaced the shackles with a tablet and the torch, and then put the shackles very subtly sort of underneath her robe. And you can — but the only way you can see them, these broken chains, these broken links, are from a helicopter or from an airplane. And in many ways, I think that that is a microcosm for how we hide the story of slavery across this country, that these chain links are hidden, out of sight, out of view of most people, under the robe of Lady Liberty, and how the story of slavery across this country is very — as we see now, very intentionally trying to be hidden and kept from so many people, so that we have a fundamentally inconsistent understanding of the way that slavery shaped our contemporary society today.
  • The Statue of Liberty means everything. We take it for granted today. We take it for granted. Remember the Statue of Liberty stands for what America is. We as Democrats have to remind ourselves and remind the country the great principles we stand for. This is a place of protection. This is not a country of bullies. We are not an empire. We are the light. We are the Statue of Liberty.
  • The view... from my apartment... was the World Trade Center... And now it's gone. And they attacked it. This symbol of... of American ingenuity and strength... and labor and imagination and commerce and it's gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.
    • Jon Stewart, Monologue on September 20, 2001. At the beginning of the first episode of The Daily Show to air after September 11th, 2001, Stewart gave a personal monologue about the impact of the attacks on himself and the show.
      View video of the monologue at The Daily Show's official website (requires Marcromedia Flash). Read a fan's transcript.
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