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A ‘Rebel Queen’ Gets her Due, Denmark Gets First Public Statue of a Black Woman

Black Woman, Mary Thomas, I am queen mary
Statue of Mary Thomas called "I am Queen Mary"

Artists honored a black woman who led a labor revolt in the Caribbean over Danish colonialism in the Caribbean in 1878.

A statue called “I am Queen Mary” was unveiled on Saturday celebrating Mary Thomas, a “rebel queen” who led the “largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history,” according to the New York Times.

Thomas spearheaded the 1878 uprising called “Fireburn,” where she and other female leaders initiated the burning of 50 plantations on the island of St. Croix.

“I Am Queen Mary represents a bridge between the two countries.  It’s a hybrid of our bodies, nations and narratives,”  La Vaughn Belle, one of the artists of the 23-foot sculpture who hails from the Virgin Islands, said in a statement. “This project is about challenging Denmark’s collective memory and changing it.”

The unveiling was timed to celebrate Denmark’s sale of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, which now makes up the Virgin Islands, to the United States in March 1917.

The artists have said this is Denmark’s first public monument to a black woman, the Times reports.

The statue was uncovered at a former Caribbean sugar and rum warehouse that sits a mile away from where she imprisoned for her role in the rebellion in Copenhagen.

“What’s unique about this sculpture is not only its size and thematics but that it was not commissioned. It is we, two artists, who are pushing into the public space with our artwork,” said Denmark’s Jeannette Ehlers, the other artist of ‘I am Queen Mary.’ “So like the Queens of the Fireburn took action and fought against the oppressive colonial system, we are confronting present day’s racism and Eurocentrism by claiming a space for our narratives.”

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