Sankofa Garden Homes: Seeds of Liberty
CLARENCE GLOVER | 6/16/2019, 5:18 p.m.
Sankofa Gardening Homes
Seeds of Liberty
Silent her voice has been,
since first her spirit born.
The truth of why she stands today
has yet to be learned.
The end of slavery many years
comes now to wipe away Africa’s children’s tears.
Open shackles at her feet speak of victory not defeat.
War now ended freedom won,
America’s road to peace begun.
Speak now Lady Liberty and tell us why
you hold your golden torch so high.
To shine on all no matter the skin,
to let you know that all are kin.
Embrace the light and truth you now know,
break the dam and let justice flow.
Never again lock the chains
that enslaved both the enslaver and the slaved.
And when in doubt as to why I stand.
Look at my feet and understand!
I wrote the above poem in 2004. It was written at a time when few individuals were aware of the original meaning of the Statue of Liberty. It was considered controversial and threatened to scar the traditional view of Lady Liberty as a symbol of welcoming European immigrants to America.
Like a gardener who plants seeds and waits for the right conditions for crops to grow, historians often come across information that is not popular at the time and wait for the right time to bring it forth. As an African American historian born, reared and educated in the South, with an interest in American slavery and plantation life, I have come across many things that were not considered a part of the educational or social mainstream and not ready to be accepted by many in society.
As we celebrate Juneteenth and the 400th year observance of Africans in America, 1619-2019, and the opening of the Statue of Liberty Museum in New York City on May 16, 2019, the right conditions have come together to reveal the original meaning of the Statue of Liberty and its connections to the end of slavery and Juneteenth.
In the Washington Post, May 23, Gillian Brockell notes:
“The new Statue of Liberty Museum in New York Harbor boasts a number of treasures: the original torch, which was replaced in the 1980s; an unoxidized cooper replica of Lady Liberty’s face; and recordings of immigrants describing the sight of the 305-foot monument. It also revives an aspect of the statue’s long-forgotten history: Lady Liberty was originally designed to celebrate the end of slavery, not the arrival of immigrants. Ellis Island, the inspection station through which millions of immigrants passed, didn’t open until six years after the statue was unveiled in 1886. The plaque with the famous Emma Lazarus poem – ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free’ – wasn’t added until 1903.”
The Statue of Liberty was inspired by Edouard de Laboulaye, a French jurist who was an expert on the U.S. Constitution. He also co-founded the French Antislavery Society, which worked for the abolishment of American slavery. He first discussed the possibility of the Statue of Liberty with Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, in 1865, the year the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Galveston, Texas, ending slavery in the states in rebellion against the Union – commemorated now as Juneteenth.