As a young child, he was born into slavery in the colonial island of St. Croix in 1784, where he was taken to Denmark by his “owner.” At 17, he managed to escape, enlisted in the navy and fought in the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen. After the war, he declared himself a free man, believing that he was entitled not only because of his patriotic service, but because while slavery remained legal in the colonies, it was outlawed in Denmark itself.
The widow of his “owner,” Henriette Catharine von Schimmelmann, disagreed and took this man to court where he became the subject of one of the most notorious slavery cases in European history.
After losing that case, this man ran away, or rather: he stole himself – never to be heard from in Denmark again, his fate unknown for more than two hundred years. It is now known that he fled to Iceland, where he became a merchant and peasant farmer, married, and raised two children.
Today, he has become something of an Icelandic icon, claimed as a proud and daring ancestor both there and among his descendants in America. What was his name?