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“I Am Queen Mary”

May 2, 2018

In Denmark, where most of the public statues represent white men, in March two artists unveiled this striking statue in tribute to a 19th-century rebel queen who had led a fiery revolt against Danish colonial rule in the Caribbean.This is said to be Denmark’s first public monument to a black woman, inspired by Mary Thomas, known as one of “the three queens.”

“I Am Queen Mary” - image from New York Times

Thomas, along with two other female leaders, unleashed an uprising in 1878 called the “Fireburn.” Fifty plantations and most of the town of Frederiksted in St. Croix were burned, in what has been called the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history. It is another example of how the truth of a history hidden, erased, rendered invisible for decades can be made concrete and visible, another example of how women are now refusing to be airbrushed out of history.

This work is remarkable also for being a collaboration between 2 artists, Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle. “This project is about challenging Denmark’s collective memory and changing it,” the Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle, one of two principal forces behind the statue, said in a statement.

Jeannette Ehlers, left, and La Vaughn Belle - image from New York Times