We all learned that the Statue of Liberty was given to us by France to stand in the harbor of New York City as a beacon of hope to immigrants coming to Ellis Island, right? Well, the words we all can quote by heart, Emma Lazarus’s poem which ends: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! was not placed at the base of the Statue until 1903, nearly 20 years after the statue’s dedication in 1886.
The Statue of Liberty was the idea of Eduardo de Laboulaye, a French political thinker and staunch abolitionist. And it was meant to celebrate the end of slavery and the victory of the North in the Civil War. Broken shackles at her foot symbolize that fact.
You can find more on the subject at the National Park Service site you can reach here.