Author:
Stephanie Chalana Brown
Subject:
English Language Arts, Virgin Islands History, Virgin Islands Culture, Women's Studies
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Assessment, Case Study, Lecture Notes
Level:
Lower Primary, Upper Primary, Middle School, High School
Tags:
  • Activity
  • Caribbean History
  • Contract Day
  • Firebun
  • Iamqueenmary
  • Labor Rights
  • Queenmary
  • Usvi History
  • Virgin Islands History
  • Womens Studies
  • virgin-islands-history
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Language:
    English
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, eBook, Text/HTML

    Education Standards

    The many faces of Mary Thomas

    The many faces of Mary Thomas

    Overview

    The many faces of Mary Thomas

     

    The Many Faces of Mary Thomas

    Study questions:

    Look at the portrait on one of the first pages in C.E. Taylor in Leaflets from the Danish West Indies. How is the writer projected?

    The book can be found here: http://www.kb.dk/e-mat/dod/130020757567.pdf

    Compare the portrait of Taylor to “A REBEL” and “QUEEN MARY”. Comment on technique, style, detail, and aesthetics. Discuss possible reasons for the artistic choices.

    There seems to be a “silent period” in the depictions of the Fireburn and the
    queens between the 1880s and the 1980s. Discuss why.

    Compare and contrast the different depictions of Mary Thomas/Queen Mary.
    How are they composed? What stories do they tell?

     

    There are no known photographs or portraits of Mary Thomas. Although it was common to take photographs of female prisoners in Denmark in the 1880s, the West Indian women are not among the photos of female prisoners kept in the National Archives in Copenhagen.

    Throughout the years, however, different depictions of Mary Thomas have been created and used in attempts to visualize her.

    The first known depiction of Mary Thomas is from the book Leaflets from the
    Danish West Indies, written by C.E. Taylor in 1888. There are two images in the book’s chapter about the Fireburn. One is called ”A Rebel” and the other ”Queen Mary”. Both the rebel and Queen Mary wear dresses, but where the rebel holds a cane knife and a torch, Queen Mary holds a cane knife and a banner. The banner appears to be white in the image, although it is stated in police records that she had a red banner.

    Interestingly, it is the image of the rebel that has come to represent Mary
    Thomas, at least in Denmark. Even The National Museum (Nationalmuseet) and The National Archives (Rigsarkivet) in Denmark use the image of ”A rebel” to represent Queen Mary.

    In USVI, a number of representations are to be found. A large painting from 1989 by artist Nathaniel Mack hangs prominently in the post office in Frederiksted, showing the leaders in front (one of which undoubtedly represents Mary Thomas), as well as a large crowd behind them.

    In St. Thomas, the statue called The three Queens of the Virgin Islands by sculptor Richard Hallier from 2005 shows three of the leading Fireburn queens.

    And in 2018, artists Jeannette Ehlers and LaVaughn Belle completed the
    prototype of their sculpture I AM QUEEN MARY, which was on display at the
    Workers Museum (Arbejdermuseet) in Copenhagen from January to April that year. The artists have merged their own faces and bodies in order to create the sculpture and draws on references from the American civil rights movement as well as material related to slavery.

    In October 2018 the full-sized sculpture of I AM QUEEN MARY was installed in front of The West Indian Warehouse (Vestindisk Pakhus) in Copenhagen. An important part of the sculpture is its foundation of coral, bricks and rocks from old plantation ruins in the USVI: Building material produced by enslaved Africans and African-Caribbeans before 1848. There are no known photographs or portraits of Mary Thomas. Although it was common to take photographs of female prisoners in Denmark in the 1880s, the
    West Indian women are not among the photos of female prisoners kept in the National Archives in Copenhagen.

    Throughout the years, however, different depictions of Mary Thomas have been created and used in attempts to visualize her.

    The first known depiction of Mary Thomas is from the book Leaflets from the
    Danish West Indies, written by C.E. Taylor in 1888. There are two images in the book’s chapter about the Fireburn. One is called ”A Rebel” and the other ”Queen Mary”. Both the rebel and Queen Mary wear dresses, but where the rebel holds a cane knife and a torch, Queen Mary holds a cane knife and a banner. The banner appears to be white in the image, although it is stated in police records that she had a red banner.

    Interestingly, it is the image of the rebel that has come to represent Mary
    Thomas, at least in Denmark. Even The National Museum (Nationalmuseet) and The National Archives (Rigsarkivet) in Denmark use the image of ”A rebel” to represent Queen Mary.

    In USVI, a number of representations are to be found. A large painting from 1989 by artist Nathaniel Mack hangs prominently in the post office in Frederiksted, showing the leaders in front (one of which undoubtedly represents Mary Thomas), as well as a large crowd behind them.

    In St. Thomas, the statue called The three Queens of the Virgin Islands by sculptor Richard Hallier from 2005 shows three of the leading Fireburn queens.

    And in 2018, artists Jeannette Ehlers and LaVaughn Belle completed the
    prototype of their sculpture I AM QUEEN MARY, which was on display at the
    Workers Museum (Arbejdermuseet) in Copenhagen from January to April that year. The artists have merged their own faces and bodies in order to create the sculpture and draws on references from the American civil rights movement as well as material related to slavery.

    In October 2018 the full-sized sculpture of I AM QUEEN MARY was installed in front of The West Indian Warehouse (Vestindisk Pakhus) in Copenhagen. An important part of the sculpture is its foundation of coral, bricks and rocks from old plantation ruins in the USVI: Building material produced by enslaved Africans and African-Caribbeans before 1848.