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"The New Colossus" is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), written in 1883 and, in 1903, engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Libertymarker.

The plaque at the Statue of Liberty

History of the poem

The poem was written as a donation to an auction of art and literary works conducted by the "Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Libertymarker", the aim of which was to raise money for the pedestal's construction The contribution was solicited by fundraiser William Maxwell Evarts. Initially Lazarus refused, but Constance Cary Harrison convinced her that the statue would be of great significance to immigrants sailing into the harbor .

"The New Colossus" was the only entry read at the exhibit's opening, but was forgotten and played no role at the opening of the statue in 1886. In 1901, Lazarus's friend Georgina Schuyler began an effort to memorialize Lazarus and her poem, which succeeded in 1903 when a plaque bearing the text of the poem was mounted on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty .

The line "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" has read "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" on the plaque hanging inside the Statue of Liberty since its unveiling in 1903.


The title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodesmarker, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The poem talks about the millions of immigrants who came to the United Statesmarker (many of them through Ellis Islandmarker at the port of New York).

The "air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame" refers to New York Citymarker and Brooklynmarker , not yet consolidated into one unit in 1883.


Author John T. Cunningham wrote that "The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the statue. However, it was Lazarus's poem that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants" .

James Russell Lowell wrote that the poem gave the Statue of Libertymarker a "raison d'ĂȘtre" andPaul Auster wrote that "Bartholdi's gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international republicanism, but 'The New Colossus' reinvented the statue's purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world" .

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