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Golden Door or Border War?: The New Colossus: A Poets’ Theatre Presentation on Immigration and Its History in Boston

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Members: $20 | Visitors: $30

Poets' Theatre

The New Colossus: A Poets’ Theatre Presentation on Immigration and Its History in Boston

Give me your tired, your poor,

  Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

These words have become as well known and as deeply embedded in American patriotic lore as those of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Gettysburg Address, or the Declaration of Independence. But few remember that these lines are excerpted from an 1883 sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus. Though the lines were meant to interpret the Statue of Liberty, they transformed the statue’s original purpose, turning it into a welcoming symbol for wave after wave of immigrants to the United States. The poem and the statue have a tangled history, for both are contemporaneous with a virulent anti-immigration movement that started in Boston. Drawing from the Athenæum’s collections, this presentation explores resentment of immigrants in turn-of-the-century Boston, as well as poetic responses sympathetic to the immigrant cause.

This event is part of the “Golden Door or Border War?: United States Immigration from the 19th Century to Today,” a three-part series that investigates the turbulent past and present of immigration in the United States. Join us for the other events in the series:

The Boston Roots of the Trump Anti-Immigrant Playbook
Lecture with Boston Globe writer Neil Swidey
12-1 pm on September 26, 2017

Boston and the Chinese Exclusion Act
Panel with Professor Emeritus Tunney Lee, Shauna Lo, and Professor Lisong Liu
12-1 pm on October 17, 2017

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Auto-generated captions are available for most virtual programs. To request live captioning or other accommodations, please contact Hannah Weisman at or 617-720-7617 at least four business days prior to the event.