Denmark was the seventh-largest participant in the trans-Atlantic Slave trade by number of slaves transported. Many people do not realize that the US bought the Virgin Islands: St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, from Denmark in 1917. Prior to this, all three islands were part of the Danish colonial empire that included Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, parts of West Africa, and parts of south-east India.
In my Danish Politics and Society class, we explored the Voices from the Colonies exhibit at the Danish National Museum. This exhibit explored each colony with how it was treated (from a Danish point of view) to where it is now. At the start of the exhibit was a t-shirt emblazoned St. Croix – We should have kept it. This made us all take pause, as this exhibit, we believed, was going to be about the experience of people in the colonies. Some of the most striking pieces were black dolls that white Danish children would play with as the black nannies took care of each of the them.
One of the most intriguing figures from the Danish Virgin Islands was Queen Mary. She, along with three other black women, staged a revolt in the late 1800s and after it failed and they were captured, they all were brought to Copenhagen and served sentences for their crimes in the old Women’s prison.
Today, Queen Mary is present in Copenhagen as a statue in front of the Royal Cast Museum (the old Danish West Indies Warehouse). The statue was constructed as a joint venture between the Danish artist Jeannette Ehlers and Virgin Islands’ artist La Vaughn Belle. It was inaugurated on March 31, 2018 and has become a symbol for the black history of Denmark.