Interesting, I did not know about the chains either.

Interesting, I did not know about the chains either.

Originally shared by Yonatan Zunger

Something I did not know: at the Statue of Liberty’s feet are broken chains, and in the original design of the statue, she did not hold a book in her left hand, but rather the chains she had shattered.

Edouard de Laboulaye and Frédéric Batholdi, the two men behind the statue, were fervent abolitionists, and the initial impetus for the statue was the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

The final design of the statue, in which the chains are visible only from a helicopter, was the result of strong objections from the project’s American backers, upon whom de Laboulaye and Batholdi were relying to fund the pedestal and the site; they wanted no mentions of slavery. In 1885-6, the United States was fully in the throes of “reconciliation,” the process of the official forgetting of pre-War history, the rehabilitation of the political image of the South, and the formalization of the “New Slavery” system in both North and South which was to prove so immensely profitable. Such a public decree of slavery as an evil, and the antithesis of liberty, would have been an entirely unwanted political problem to those who wanted the country to “just get over it.”

The chains remained virtually unknown until recently, with even the National Park Service not mentioning their existence in its publications. Ordinary tourists never saw them; thanks to the steep angle of the plinth, they’re completely invisible from the ground. It was only in 2011 that (for reasons not fully clear) this changed, and the USNPS now discusses this history at length on its site.

Via Ralf Haring and Peter da Silva.