1. January 2021
What is the role of social justice vis-à-vis colonial archives? When the Danish sold the then-Danish West Indies to the United States in 1917, they took much of the archived history of these islands with them to Denmark—where they remain today.
As we attempt to grapple with the presence of Black residents of the then-Danish West Indies in documents and imagery in these Danish colonial archives, we are confronted with the reality that their lives and experiences remain hidden from view and largely unexplored.
As we attempt to read images which depict Black residents of the Danish West Indies, we are confronted with racist tropes, but also—for many Virgin Islanders—with the possibility of encountering community members and ancestors.
How archives are situated—and experienced—in different contexts is crucial. That is, rather than viewing archives as static repositories of information, I push us to consider significance of the context within which archives exist.
Virgin Islands Studies Collective (VISCO) want to create space for the recontextualization of archives of the Virgin Islands: As an example, while historical figures like ‘Queen’ Mary Thomas are remembered in Danish archives as colonial subjects, troublemakers, and prison inmates who led uprisings, they are celebrated as cultural heroes and forebears in the Virgin Islands. It is important to engage with these questions of race, remembering, and social justice as they relate to the unfolding history of the US Virgin Islands.
The blog is going to be written by scholars, activists, descendants of Fireburn rioters and others engaged in this part of history - stay tuned.
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