I was very surprised to learn after completing more research, that The Statue of Liberty was never a gift from France. Nor did it have anything to do with immigration when the idea was first conceived. And, Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The Huddled Masses” was virtually unknown until the 1930s.
Napoleon III, the French ruler when Bartholdi and Laboulaye, a French abolitionist, conceived the idea of Lady Liberty, flat out rejected the idea. He knew that the statue was a symbolic protest against his authoritarian government and his support of the Confederate States in the American Civil War. It was Napoleon’s intention to establish slavery again in France that he tried to help finance the Confederacy. However, French abolitionist Laboulaye worked ceaselessly and publicly to thwart Napoleon’s efforts and succeeded. In turn, America refused to put up any money for it at all believing it did not represent liberty but the urban insurrection, The Paris Commune, that engulfed Paris in 1871.
I guess you get the picture. The Statue of Liberty’s real life history has been suppressed, then altered, to project a totally different image to the world. NOTE: The Black Lady Liberty, above left, is not a copy of the original Bartholdi model, but a commemoration of the emancipation of slaves on the island of St. Maartens.
For those who you who may be interested, here is a list of references you can explore:
1.) To see the original model of the Statue of Liberty, with the broken chains at her feet and in her left hand, visit the Museum of the City of NY, Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street (212) 534-1672 or call the same number and dial ext. 208 and speak to Peter Simmons. Mr. Simmons can send you some documentation.
2.) See the N.Y. Times Magazine, part II May 18, 1986.
3.) The dark original face of the Statue of Liberty can be seen in the N.Y. Post June 17, 1986, also the Post stated the reason for the broken chains at her feet.
4.) Finally, you may check with the French Mission or the French Embassy at the U.N. or in Washington, D.C. and ask for some original French material on the Statue of Liberty, including the Bartholdi original model.
5.) Read “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story” (the origin of The Statue of Liberty speaks to America’s original sin”) by Ed Berenson.
Flo is unique in her mission and singularly devoted and true to what she believes. She uses her art to convey this message and is undaunted, unafraid to plunge forward. Even though she was born in Pau, in the south of France, and had no formal education in black American history, she feels absolutely compelled to alert the WORLD that the Black Woman is to be respected, exalted, and given her rightful place in the universe.
I guess you can see my shock and surprise in the interview when Florence Beauredon, a native of France, Pau in the south to be exact, stated unequivocally that the first, the original concept for the Statue of Liberty, was that of the depiction of a freed black female slave!
Now, I consider myself a student of history and have always believed it was essential to educate myself on historical facts that shape our present reality. I’ve read about a host of theories, legends, fables that have that dispute some historical fact – but I have never come across this piece of information – ever – in any of my readings. Of course I was more than a bit dubious and began to question her aggressively – but stopped. I decided to do my own research because I do know that American historians have never been really truthful about the sordid side of American history, especially in our schools, and prefer to paint a picture of a nation governed by the Bible, mom, and apple pie. I was also thinking, it seems I always learn more about the real American history from citizens of other countries, so I suspended my disbelief for a moment.
After reading several articles and essays on the subject, Flo was indeed correct. The original idea of the Statue of Liberty was to celebrate the emancipation of slaves by Lincoln during The American Civil War and to publicly protest the nascent imperial dictatorship led by self anointed emperor Louis Napoleon who took steps to re-establish slavery in France. The self crowned dictator even went so far as to finance the Southern traitors of the Confederate Army hoping for a victory that would facilitate his personal and political goals.
Now enter Edouard de Laboulaye, a French abolitionist who was very vocal and instrumental in ending slavery in France. He always admired Abraham Lincoln and championed abolishing slavery in the US. He took up arms again against the Emperor Napoleon and successfully stopped him sending money to the Confederate Army which also delayed the implementation , again, of slavery in France.
Upon Lincoln’s defeat of the Confederates and abolishing slavery, it was Laboulaye who gave artist/sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the idea for a statue called “Liberty Enlightening the World”.
Bartholdi’s original statue, Marianne, depicted a dark skinned Muslim woman with an Egyptian face, holding aloft and Egyptian lantern (symbolic of the French torch of freedom) and holding broken chains in her right hand. Bartholdi proposed the Black Marianne as a colossal lighthouse to commemorate the completion of the French-Egyptian Suez Canal.
When that didn’t fly with the French, Laboulaye suggested that Bartholdi repurpose the original Black Liberty as a very public celebration of Lincoln’s victory and his destruction of slavery. It would also serve to denounce the new dictatorial regime of Napoleon in France. Naming the new statue “Lady Liberty Enlightening the World” emphatically emphasized the anti-slavery, anti-tyranny themes at the heart and soul of her conception.
I guess after France’s rejection of a black faced statue (this is my conjecture, but easily understood) they decided to anglicise her. But, it was Laboulaye who suggested to take the chains from the Black Liberty’s hand and place them under the left foot of the now named “Statue of Liberty”.
The important takeaway from this moment in history, that I NEVER knew or even heard of this before, is that the original ‘Statue of Liberty” was morphed from the original dark skinned Lady Liberty created by a French artist and was intended to publicly celebrate Lincoln’s Civil War victory and the abolition of slavery and decry tyranny and dictatorship. The fact that I had to learn this from a European is even more upsetting. Particularly at a point in American culture where the ultra conservative right wing is desperately trying to whitewash, rewrite, and/or limit the amount of true American history being taught in public schools.
Placing the monument in the middle of the NYC harbour created the city’s first skyscraper. It was also the very first thing immigrants saw when they sailed into the New York harbor. It didn’t take long before the original purpose of the statue, the celebration of The Emancipation Proclamation, was forgotten and re-emerged as the symbol of liberty for the European masses immigrating to a new home.
I’m sure no one, including myself, ever thought about why those shackles are on the left foot of Lady Liberty. Now you know…
In the layout above, starting large picture left and clockwise:
1. The Black Lady Liberty on the island of St. Maarten (St. Martin) commemorating the abolition of slavery. This is NOT the original Bartholdi statue.
2. The Lady Liberty’s head and crown
3. The broken shackles celebrating the freeing of slaves in America. These were put there at the suggestion of Laboulaye so that people would remember the original message of black emancipation.
Flo’s story continues with her arrival in Atlanta via New York City (which she didn’t like at all!). She talks about how being in Atlanta cemented what she felt was her ‘mission’ and helped her to create the foundation of her work: the glorification of the black woman in art who, she feels, is the mother of all humanity.
A visual gallery of the artwork of Flo Beauredon celebrating the Beauty of the Black Woman. I, personally, really like how beautifully regal all the women are and how many are juxtaposed with images from nature, flowers, trees, rivers, oceans, landscapes, birds, showing a spiritual connection that is strong and undiluted. Her message is clear and straightforward, no gimmicks or convoluted allegorical artificiality. The more I know and understand Flo the more beautiful the images become to me.