Im/Migration, Emma Lazarus, and the Statue of Liberty
Emma Lazarus’s 1883 poem The New Colossus has come to symbolize a particular vision of the United States as a home for immigrants. While many people can quote the poem, few know the entire sonnet, fewer know the story behind her famous words.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Re-imagining Migration is proud to be working with the American Jewish Historical Society and Facing History and Ourselves on the Emma Lazarus Project. The Emma Lazarus Project explores the story of Emma Lazarus, a fifth-generation American Jew caught in an important turning point in American History. The initiative—including the exhibit, curriculum and poetry contest—uses primary sources straight from the archive to encourage students to piece together Emma’s fascinating story, and to join the ongoing conversation about American identity.
Use this link to learn more about the project.
The Emma Lazarus Project curriculum, designed in partnership with the American Jewish Historical Society draws on their remarkable collections. This curriculum provides students with the opportunity to analyze and engage with primary source materials in order to gain a deeper understanding of the United State’s long struggle with nativism, prejudice, and antisemitism.
Throughout this curriculum, students will explore how Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” not only influenced the world’s perspective of the Statue of Liberty, but went on to shape American identity.
The curriculum, designed to adapt to the needs of teachers and their students, explores immigration, Emma’s complex identities, her influences, her writing and advocacy work, and the story of how she came to write her most famous poem. Through looking closely at the story of Emma Lazarus in the context of her time, students will explore how America both welcomed, but restricted immigration. Throughout this curriculum, students will explore how Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” not only influenced the world’s perspective of the Statue of Liberty, but went on to shape American identity.
Emma’s story shows how even in complicated times, people can engage civically. Through engaging with this history, students will be prepared to develop their own voices on issues of the day. The culminating activity of The Emma Lazarus Project curriculum is to provide students with their own pedestal to share their thoughts and beliefs.
In addition, The American Jewish Historical Society is also hosting a National Poetry Contest, which asks students to imagine themselves as 21st century Emma, following the prompt: “If you could write a poem for the Statue of Liberty today, what would it say?”