Original Author: Moses Jacob Ezekiel, sculptor; Carol M. Highsmith, photographer
Created: 1874–1876, sculpture; between 1980 and 2006, photograph
Moses Jacob Ezekiel created this monumental sculpture, Religious Liberty, for display at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, a celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith commissioned the work—Ezekiel's first major commission. Dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1876, at Fairmont Park, the monument was carved from a solid block of Carrara marble. The figure of the woman, at center, wears a cap with thirteen gold stars, representing the thirteen original colonies. Next to her a bald eagle, the emblem of the United States, crushes a serpent that symbolizes tyranny.
In 1984 the monument was moved to a new location near the Liberty Bell and the National Museum of American Jewish History. Born in Richmond, Ezekiel was from a Spanish-Jewish family.