Queen Collection

“Queen Mary, ah weh you gon go bu’n? Queen Mary, ah weh you gon go bu’n?” 

Chances are you have heard or sang this song as a child if the U.S. Virgin Islands is a part of your heritage. Born Mary Thomas in 1848, Queen Mary is one of the USVI’s great heroines. She came to St. Croix from the island of Antigua in the 1860s to work the sugarcane plantations. Although slavery was abolished in 1848 in the then-Danish West Indies (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas), the islands’ black inhabitants still were not truly free. On October 1, 1878, black plantation workers gathered in St. Croix’s Frederiksted to demand fair wages and better working conditions. A rumor quickly spread that protester Henry Trotman was badly injured by Danish police and later died. The false rumor of his death resulted in more than 50 plantations and most of Frederiksted town burning at the hands of the angry workers. Queen Mary, and two other fearless “queens,” as identified by plantation workers, led the 1878 “Fireburn” labor uprising.

Learn more about the Labor Uprising of 1878