In an effort to “memorialize Denmark’s colonial impact in the Caribbean and those who fought against it,” the country recently unveiled a statue of a black slave rebellion leader from one of their former colonies.

La Vaughn Belle, an artist from the Virgin Islands, and Jeannette Ehlers, an artist from Denmark, collaborated to bring Mary Thomas’s story back to modern-day Danes.

Jeannette Ehlers, left, and La Vaughn Belle, right. (Nikolaj Recke)
Jeannette Ehlers, left, and La Vaughn Belle, right. (Nikolaj Recke)

Mary Thomas and two other women known as “the three queens” helped lead a slave uprising that destroyed much of a city and several plantations on St. Croix in 1878.

The statue was unveiled at the end of the centennial anniversary marking the sale of the Virgin Islands to the United States.

The artists say their work, “I am Queen Mary,” is the first public statue of a black woman in Denmark. On Belle’s website, there’s a side-by-side comparison of their statue to the inspired pose from a photo of Black Panther Party founder, Huey P. Newton.

(David Berg)
(David Berg)

It is unlike most of the other statues you will find in Denmark.

“Ninety-eight percent of the statues in Denmark are representing white males,” says Ehlers.

The monument now sits in front of a former warehouse for sugar and rum from the Caribbean in the country’s capital of Copenhagen.

The New York Times reports that the formidable statue stands at nearly 23 feet tall.

By placing the story of a black woman out in front of one of the remnants of colonialism and highlighting the work of women artists of color, the effort seems like a genuine reckoning with history.

It’s a testament to the human cost of that legacy, one’s that’s been smoothed out of history for far too long. The monument is a reminder of the kind of treatment that led Thomas and the two other “queens” to take up weapons in their hands and fight for their lives.

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