Despite our innumerable contributions to the world, it’s not often that you see a statue honoring Black women. In Harlem, there’s Harriet Tubman, but honestly, I can’t recall any other examples.
Thankfully, I can add another Black woman to the list. She’s in Denmark but I’ll take it.
This past Saturday, Denmark unveiled the status of Mary Thomas. Thomas, a 19th century enslaved woman from St. Croix, led an anti-slavery revolt in St. Croix from the 1800s.
In 1878, Thomas led a labor revolt later named The Fireburn. On October1, Thomas fought against the contractual servitude that kept African workers in the plantation system, long after slavery had been abolished in the British West Indies, in 1848. Thomas was calling for better working and living conditions. Perhaps demanding is a better word as part of her revolt included burning down most of a town called Frederiksted and sugar cane fields.
The Fireburn carried out by Thomas Axeline ‘Agnes’ Elizabeth Salomon, Matilde McBean and Susanna ‘Bottom Belly’ Abrahamsson, became the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history.
The women were arrested and sent to Denmark to serve their prison sentences. The sentences were later commuted and they were returned to St. Croix.
The statue of Thomas, named “I Am Queen Mary” was created by two Black women artists, Danish Jeannette Ehlers and Virgin Islander La Vaughn Belle.
According to the artists’ website, the title “I Am Queen Mary” “speaks to many resistance movements and traditions. She anticipates the question “Who are you?” and in the African tradition of call-and-response announces her presence. By speaking her humanity into existence she stakes her claim on the site and reshapes the narrative for future generations.”
That statue is said to help the Nordic country confront its colonial history in the Caribbean.
“I Am Queen Mary” sits in front of a former warehouse for Caribbean sugar and rum.
You can learn more about the conceptualization of the statue, here.