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 and Jewish History. The initiative—including an 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.

Liberty Enlightening

by A. Thu Ngo




Mother of Exiles—conceived in abolitionist dream
but still barely rid of the shackle and chain at your feet—
you struggle to stand erect; this vision you’ve yet to meet.
Your torch, raised as welcome beacon, is now dim in its gleam.
I inscribed your legacy: Pledge cover, offer refuge!
Today you are a lightning rod against their fueled terrors.
The engineers of your future fear more than their error;
they are steeled in defense, bracing against the deluge
of the world’s yearning, turning you from guardian to guard
of the wretched. These days the battered come through other ways
no longer at Ellis but at Rio Grande or Otay.
In your stead, uniformed CBP at borders have barred
the paths to hope, blocked off these passages stained with tears,
leaving only mirage and the verdigris of your years.

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