Statue of Liberty origins debated in Selma

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 10, 2006

I’ve never been to New York City, but if I ever do make the trek, one of the first places I plan on going is to Liberty Island in New York Harbor to see first-hand the mighty statue referred to as the Statue of Liberty.

Had you asked me six months ago or even two weeks ago, my interest would have been directed toward the likes of Carnegie Hall or even Yankee Stadium.

But, because of a most interesting debate that has developed of late in Selma I want to see first hand what all the fuss is about.

Email newsletter signup

The fuss that I am referring to started when the newly-formed Freedom Party of Dallas County revealed their new logo at a recent press conference.

If that weren’t enough to ruffle some Selmians feathers -the explanation given for the purpose of such a logo really got some tempers flaring.

The logo is what the party believes to be an original rendition of the Statue of Liberty portraying a black woman in shackles.

Cliff Albright, party chairperson, cited the history of the 151-foot statue on New York Harbor.

He said the statue was created in the mind of French historian Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and that he proposed to the French government that the people of France present to the U.S. a Statue of Liberty in recognition of black soldiers who fought and won the civil war. He went on to say that when the statue was presented to the U.S Minister of France in 1884, it was said the statue’s shackles would be offensive to the Confederate South and the lady took on features in line with the European aesthetic.

I am not going to say Albright is correct in his theory, but unlike many others in Selma, I am not going to say he is incorrect either.

The most recognized theory of the statue is that Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.

The Statue was a joint effort between America and France and it was agreed on that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly here in the United States, according to the National Park Service’s official history of the Statue of Liberty.

While artist Bartholdi was responsible for designing the statue, it was actually proposed by French historian Edouard Laboulaye in 1865 to commemorate the friendship between France and the United States born during the Revolutionary War, according to an encyclopedia.

Two very different points of views, but in reality there must be only one answer – one correct reflection of history. Interestingly enough, I am not sure if anyone is confident that they do know the answer.

As a matter of fact, according to a story by the Associated Press, the National Park Service is in the process of researching the history of the 114-year-old monument. Apparently, a theory – which corresponds with the Freedom Party’s – surfaced on the Internet years ago and has since become accepted as a possible truth.

Because of this perception, the Park Service has begun an investigation to validate the history one way or another.

The Statue of Liberty has been, in my mind, an image that stood for freedom.

I never put much thought into whether that freedom was for blacks or immigrants – rather believing it stood for freedom for all people. Of course, that word means more to others than some and duly so.

I question, though, the fact that people aren’t welcomed to have different views. No one should shove their point of view down another’s throat. There should be conversation without unneeded frustrations.

Jesse Lindsey is publisher of The Times-Journal.