Black Statue of Liberty Bibliography

Query From Melisa Summy 10 Nov 1998

I was looking through a book the other day when I came across a photograph of an original study for the Statue of Liberty. She had African features and a broken chain of slavery hanging from her upheld arm. The caption said that this was the way Bartholdi originally designed her, but he was persuaded by the U.S. to change her appearance. There was no citation information included in the book anywhere. Can anyone give me a place where I can find and document this?
Thank you.


Isn't this rather on point for the whole Jefferson discussion!

I have heard the exact same thing about the Statue, and have been told there is actually a plaque on the Statue that documents what you say.

Given that, if nothing else surfaces you might be able to obtain documentation by contacting the people in charge of the Statue of Liberty Park. The address is: Superintendent, Statue of Liberty National Monument, Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004

They likely have a web site. I assume Ellis Island does, and may have links to the Liberty site.

From Atwood D. Gaines 11 Nov 1998

August Bertholdi was Alsatian; most likely documents to the statue can be found in the library at Strasbourg. This original form of the statue reflects the reason it was given to us; to honor the freeing of the slaves after the Civil War thus making the US, as home of democracy appear a little less hypocritical.

From Mary Landreth and Karen Madden

11 Nov 1998

I've been told that the original model of the Statue of Liberty with the broken chains at her feet and in her left hand is at the Museum of the City of New York, Fifth Ave. and 103rd Street (212) 534-1672. Peter Simmons at the museum (ext.208) should be able to provide you with some information. Also check the NY Times part II May 18, 1986 and the NY Post June 17, 1986. Also the French Embassy at the UN (202-944-6060) has a replica of the original model according to my sources.

From Samuel J. Thomas 16 Nov 1998 ( X-Post from H-SHGAPE)

I have missed some of the comments on this thread, but has anyone mentioned that Bartholdi's design of Liberty resembled, in part, some of his drawings for a statue which he earlier proposed to stand at the entrance of the Suez Canal? He made this proposal to the Egyptian government back in the 1860s, but never received an OK to carry it out.

From Caterina Pierre 17 November 1998

...Professor Thomas is absolutely right: one of Bartholdi's original concepts for Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island) was directly inspired by a prior project of his, a sculpture entitled "Egypt Bringing Light to Asia." The small maquettes (sculptural studies) and early watercolors for this concept depict a female Egyptian (that is, African) figure. These sketches are related to his (ill-fated) Suez Canal project, and the pose for the Egyptian woman was very much "recycled" into what became the Statue of Liberty. (The torch, the stance, and pose remained.) It is for that reason I think the drawing you are referring to is actually related to the Suez Canal project. Do you know when your drawing was made? The Suez commission was canned by 1869.

Also, it is interesting to note that the model for the first clay sculptures for the Statue of Liberty was Bartholdi's mother, Charlotte Beysser. The final version still very much resembles her, and her features are apparent in other sculptural projects by Bartholdi. His wife, Jeanne-Emilie, modeled for Liberty's arms.

...Edouard de Laboulaye conceived the original idea for a statue of Liberty in 1865.

A number of art historians have written about the Statue--give me a few more days and I'll find the sources! Also, the people at the Liberty Island Museum may be more helpful.