April 6, 2018 - Vol. 1, Issue 27
The Endurance of Fireburn's Legacy
Above: 'From The Revolt on St. Croix,' Illustreret Tidende magazine, 1878. 1
Jacqueline Sales
Emil Wilbekin
I Am Queen Mary statue in Copenhagen, Denmark. 2
Denmark’s first statue to memorialize a black woman was recently unveiled on March 31, 2018 in Copenhagen. 3 Artists Jeannette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle created the monument, which was named for Mary Thomas, one of the Three Queens who led a labor uprising--the Fireburn--in St. Croix in 1878. The revolt resulted in less oppressive labor laws throughout the colony. 4 , 5

Environmental engineer Jacqueline Sales ’ maternal ancestors worked on the Prosperity plantation in Christiansted, St. Croix in the 19th century. In her interview, Sales shares her grandfather’s firsthand account of the Fireburn uprising: “It was the women who tied up their skirts and took torches and burned down the plantation and hence, ended slavery as we know it in St. Croix.” 6 [Jacqueline Sales, THMDA 1.1.3] . As a memory of this revolt, one of Sales’ heirlooms is a glass bottle of soil from the plantation where her family was enslaved.

In 1917, the United States purchased the Caribbean islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John from Denmark. In the next decades, the records of colonial rule were transferred to the U.S. and Denmark’s national archives, which forced island descendants to travel abroad to research their ancestry. 7 This posed significant challenges, including for journalist Emil Wilbekin , who affirmed of the research complexity: “So, British, Danish, and then U.S…you would think it would be easier because of the history and the records, but it’s actually not.” 8   [Emil Wilbekin, THMDA 2.7.7] . Aside from Sales and Wilbekin, our archive contains four other HistoryMakers, including three journalists and a dancer, who speak explicitly about their Danish West Indian heritage.

Historians Niklas Thode Jensen and Gunvor Simonsen note that there is scant attention afforded to Danish colonial history within Denmark, due in part to the lack of island descendants who live there. 9 They suggest that conflicts over the need to recognize the nation’s colonial past are intrinsic to the “contemporary conceptions of Denmark’s political development.” 10 The I Am Queen Mary statue is perhaps an indication of progress to this end.
For our subscribing institutions, check out our curated playlist of stories that accompanies the above feature. To do so, copy and paste the below URL to the tail end of your university’s specific URL for The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. For example: [Your Institution URL] + [Playlist Tail]

Playlist Tail: stories/6;IDList=29303%2C643957%2C97672%2C642392%2C156533%2C156472%2C27421;ListTitle=The%20Danish%20West%20Indies

Remembering Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many of us are trying to analyze what fifty years has brought us since the loss of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In April of 1968, HistoryMaker William Lucy was in Memphis, Tennessee, where he helped organize the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. He remembers the profound impact of Dr. King's I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech, delivered to a captive audience at Memphis’ Mason Temple. 11 Lucy recalls of Dr. King’s leadership in that moment: “His ability to interpret what was taking place may have been easy for him, but it was incredibly refreshing for us…Not only did the men understand what they’re doing, but their families, and the community; and he was able to put that in perspective. And raising it to a national and international question of: people who work ought to receive a living wage.” 12 [William Lucy, THMDA 1.5.1].
Please share with us your stories of how you incorporate The HistoryMakers Digital Archive into your curriculum and research. We'd love to hear from you!

This week, 20 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:

Nancy Lane

Corporate executive Nancy Lane (1944 - ) became the first woman vice president at Johnson and Johnson Products in 1975. She served on the Studio Museum in Harlem board of directors for over forty years, and created the Black Executive Exchange Program at the National Urban League.

Bernard J. Tyson

Chief executive officer Bernard J. Tyson (1959 - ) was the first African American CEO of the $60 billion healthcare organization, Kaiser Permanente.
Robert Jackson

City council member Robert Jackson (1950 - ) served on the New York City Council from 2001 to 2013 and founded the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, leading two 150-mile protest marches to publicize the underfunding of the New York City public schools.
H. Ron White

Federal district court judge and lawyer H. Ron White (1941 - ) founded the Law Offices of H. Ron White & Associates and served as a District Court Judge for the State of Texas. He was also actively involved in the Committee of 100 and the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce.
Herbie Hancock

Pianist and music composer Herbie Hancock (1940 - ) was a fourteen time Grammy Award-winning artist. He played with numerous jazz ensembles and released over forty albums.
Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr.

Blues musician Emmett "Bobby Rush" Ellis, Jr. (1933 - ) was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006, and won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Porcupine Meat in 2017.
Dee Dee Bridgewater

Singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater (1950 - ) was a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer, as well as a Tony Award-winning stage actress, and hosted NPR’s JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater .
Terence Blanchard

Trumpet player and music composer Terence Blanchard (1962 - ) was a Grammy Award-winning musician who released almost twenty jazz albums and wrote over fifty film scores for Spike Lee and other directors.

Troy Carter

Music manager Troy Carter (1972 - ) was the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Atom Factory, Inc. He managed the careers of numerous recording artists including Lady Gaga, John Legend and John Mayer.
Caroline Clarke

Journalist Caroline Clarke (1964 - ) was the executive editor of Black Enterprise and host of the Black Enterprise Business Report . Her books included Take a Lesson and Postcards from Cookie .
Alysia Tate

Journalist Alysia Tate (1972 - ) was the editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter. She also served as a policy advisor and speechwriter for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
Esther "E.T." Franklin

Media executive and advertising executive Esther "E.T." Franklin (1957 - ) served as the executive vice president and director of Starcom MediaVest Group Americas Experience Strategy.
Sandra Long Weaver

Journalist Sandra Long Weaver (1952 - ) was a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists. She worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty-nine years.
Michel du Cille

Photojournalist Michel du Cille (1956 - 2014 ) was the director of photography at The Washington Post and a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.
Teri Agins

Journalist Teri Agins (1953 - ) was the author of The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Industry Forever and worked as a fashion reporter for The Wall Street Journal for over twenty years.

Mark Stansbury

Radio talk show host and academic administrator Mark Stansbury (1942 - ) was a host for over fifty years on WDIA Radio in Memphis, Tennessee, and served as the assistant to four University of Memphis presidents.
Constance W. Rice

Community development executive Constance W. Rice (1944 - ) implemented numerous community health initiatives during her tenure as the first lady of Seattle, Washington.

Malik Yoba

Actor Malik Yoba (1967 - ) was best known for his roles in the film Cool Runnings and the television series New York Undercover and Empire .

Ntozake Shange

Playwright and author Ntozake Shange (1948 - ) wrote the award-winning choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf , as well as many other works of theater, prose and poetry.

Sallie Ann Robinson

Chef and culinary historian Sallie Ann Robinson (1958 - ) was the author of Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way and Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Night . She inspired a character in Pat Conroy’s novel, The Water Is Wide .
1. BANNER PHOTO: ‘From The Revolt on St. Croix,’ illustration from Illustreret Tidende (November 1878), National Museum of Denmark. Accessed April 5, 2018.
2. PHOTO: I Am Queen Mary statue in Copenhagen, Denmark. Accessed April 2, 2018.
3. Sorensen, Martin Selsoe. “Denmark Gets First Public Statue of a Black Woman, a ‘Rebel Queen.’” The New York Times. March 31, 2018. Accessed April 2, 2018. .
4. Page, Melvin E. (Ed.). Colonialism: An International Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia . ABC-CLIO, 2003.
5. Hall, Neville A.T., Slave Society in the Danish West Indies: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix . B.W. Higman (Ed.). The University of the West Indies Press, 1994.
6. Jacqueline Sales (The HistoryMakers A2013.170), interviewed by Larry Crowe, May 24, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 3, Jacqueline Sales describes her mother's family background.
7. Bastian, Jeannette Allis. Owning Memory: How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History . Libraries Unlimited, 2003.
8. Emil Wilbekin (The HistoryMakers A2014.204), interviewed by Harriette Cole, August 12, 2014, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 7, story 7, Emil Wilbekin talks about his maternal and paternal family ancestry.
9. Jensen, Niklas Thode and Gunvor Simonsen. “Introduction: The historiography of slavery in the Danish-Norwegian West Indies, c. 1950-2016,” Scandinavian Journal of History, 2016.
10. Jensen and Simonsen, p. 478.
11. PHOTO: Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his speech, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis Tennessee, April 3, 1968. Accessed April 6, 2018.
12. William Lucy (The HistoryMakers A2008.001), interviewed by Cheryl Butler, January 29, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 1, William Lucy recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech in Memphis, Tennessee .
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