She’s a timeless symbol of democracy and freedom, overlooking the port where millions of immigrants arrived on U.S. shores.
But historians say Lady Liberty evolved from another statue designed to be a peasant Arab woman overlooking the Suez Canal in Egypt.
An article recently published by The Daily Beast contributor Michael Daly concludes that because French sculptor Frederic August Bartholdi conceived the statue as an Arab woman, calling it “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia,” it stands to conclude that she would have been a Muslim woman. (Other media outlets have come to similar conclusions.)
But Edward Berenson, professor of history at New York University, says it’s not accurate to say that the Statue of Liberty was originally conceived as a Muslim woman.
“That’s a serious oversimplification,” said Berenson.
“There’s a relationship between the Egyptian statue that Bartholdi first conceived in the late 1860s. But that statue changed as it migrated to the United States. The original version of the statue made sense for Egyptian society. It wouldn’t have made sense for America.”