A twenty-three-foot tall statue of Mary Thomas (ca. 1848–1905), known as Queen Mary, is Denmark’s first public monument to a black woman.
Thomas was one of the leaders of the 1878 “Fireburn” labor riot in St. Croix, a Danish colony at the time. The riot came months after enslaved people, who worked on plantations in the small island nation, protested their subjugation and were eventually granted freedom. Despite being no longer enslaved, the people of St. Croix were not given full dispensation. Instead, they were forced to continue working on St. Croix plantations, under a draconian labor contract.
Queen Mary, alongside Queen Agnes, and Queen Mathilda led a labor riot resulted in workers being granted new (but barely improved) contracts.
Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaugh Belle, both black artists, created the Queen Mary monument to honor her legacy and to draw attention to Denmark’s colonial history. While Denmark banned slave trafficking in 1792, the rule was barely enforced the practice continued until 1848.