Copenhagen may name new streets over Danish slave rebels

Copenhagen may name new streets over Danish slave rebels
The "I am Queen Mary" sculpture at Copenhagen Port. Photo: Jeannette Ehlers
Politicians in Denmark have proposed naming new roads in Copenhagen after slave rebels and labour rights campaigners in the Danish West Indies.
The proposal came after tens of thousands of people have protested in Denmark's cities in recent weeks against racism and police brutality, as part of the wave of global protest following the death of black American George Floyd in police custody. 
 
Ninna Hedeager Olsen, the Copenhagen city councillor who chairs the city's road name committee, told state broadcaster DR that she could see streets named after slave leader Gottlieb Bordeaux, or after the three 'rebel queens' Mary Thomas, Axeline Elizabeth Solomon and Mathilda McBean.
 
A wood-cut rendering of Gottlieb Bordeau from 1888 
 
It was Bordeaux who in 1848 led the 8,000-strong slave uprising which pushed the then governor of the Danish West Indies to abolish slavery. 
 
The three 'queens' then in 1878 led an uprising of the former slaves against continuing poor conditions on the sugar cane plantations. 
 
“There are other political colleagues who have to agree. But I imagine that they would like to vote for this,” Olsen told the broadcaster. 
 
The city authorities erected a statue to Mary Thomas — thought to be first ever to depict a black woman in Denmark — in the Port of Copenhagen back in 2018.
 
 
“We have already taken the first steps in taking responsibility for and being honest about our history of slavery in the city,” Hedeager Olsen said. 
 
Statues of figures involved in the slave trade, colonialism or racist policies have been defaced, pulled down, or been subject to petitions in cities across the world in the wake of the George Floyd protests. But so far no statue in Denmark has come under the spotlight.  
 
Hedeager Olsen said, however, that she was also considering erecting notices around roads named after figures who had been involved in the slave trade, to inform the public of the darker side to their history. 
 
Frederick de Conincks Vej in Holte, to the north of the city, is, for instance, named after a shipowner who also traded in slaves. 
 
The Danish West India Guinea Company annexed the uninhabited island of Saint Thomas in 1672, St. John in 1718, and then in 1733, it bought Saint Croix from the French West India Company.
 
Denmark was involved in transporting about 100,000 slaves from Africa to the West Indies, with many put to work at plantations on the islands. 
 
While Denmark was the first country to end the slave trade in 1792, the slaves already on the islands were not freed until the rebellion led by Bordeaux, 15 years after British slaves were liberated.  
 
 

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