On August 20, 1619, the first black slaves were dragged in chains to America
Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, wants to change Emma Lazarus’s sonnet that begins with “Give Me Your Tired and Poor”… that is inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty to something less welcoming to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Lazarus’ sonnet, which was added in 1903, completely changed the reason France gifted the State of Liberty to the United States.
France gave the Statue of Liberty to United States to celebrate the end of slavery, according to Ed Berenson, a professor at New York University and author of “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story.”
Edouard de Laboulaye, a French abolitionist and president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, is the undisputed “Father of the Statue of Liberty.” After the end of the Civil War, de Laboulaye came up with an idea for a gift to the United States to honor President Abraham Lincoln and to celebrate the abolition of slavery.
De Laboulaye hired sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi who took an unused design and more than 20 years to craft the Statue of Liberty. The 305-foot statute was dedicated in 1886 on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
The Statue of Liberty wasn’t well received by black leaders because Reconstruction had ended in 1877, ushering a new form of slavery with Jim Crow laws and segregation.
Lazarus, a poet, wrote “The New Colossus” a poem to raise money for construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was caste onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.
Lazarus, an advocate for Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Russia that was unheaval, wrote the words that completely changed the intent of the Statue of Liberty. Cuccinelli wants to change Lazarus’s sonnet even more “to give us your tired and poor who can stand on their own two feet”
On August 20, 1669, 400 years ago, 20 black slaves were brought in chains to the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia. Slavery did not end in America until December 6, 1865, although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves living in states that seceded from the Union.