Hans Jonathan


January 22, 2022

Hans Jonathan (modern Icelandic pronunciation: Hans Jonathan, 1784-1827, Dupivogur) was a former black slave (mulatto) from the Danish colonies in the Caribbean. Fleeing Denmark, where he spent his youth, to Iceland, he became one of the first people of African descent to settle in Iceland. As many of his descendants still live in the country, his case has been the subject of a revolutionary DNA research methodology.


Hans Jonathan was born a slave on a plantation on Constitution Hill in the Caribbean island of Santa Cruz, which became a Danish colony in 1733 when it was acquired by the Danish West India Company in France. His father is unknown; Icelandic historian Gisley Paulsson claims in a biographical book that his father was a white Dane, Hans Graham, who was secretary to the owners for three years; his mother was Emilia Regina, a black "domestic slave" who was first mentioned in 1773 on the Santa Cruz plantation in La Rhine, where she was probably born. In 1788, Emilia gave birth to a daughter, Anna Maria, this time from the black Andreas, who was also a domestic slave at the time, but their fate is unknown from written sources. The West African origin of the mother was determined only by genetic research. Hans Jonathan belonged to Heinrich Ludwig Ernst von Schimmelmann (Governor-General of the Danish West Indies of a very noble Danish family) and his wife Henrietta Katarina.

Living in Denmark

The Schimmelmann family moved to Copenhagen in 1789 when the plantation business fell into disrepair. Emilia Regina and later Hans Jonathan came with them. Shortly afterwards, Henry died, bequeathing Hans to his widow Henrietta Catherine. In 1801, at the age of seventeen, Hans Jonathan escaped and joined the Danish navy. He took part in the Battle of Copenhagen, for which he was honored. Danish Crown Prince Frederick rewarded him with freedom. Henrietta later arrested Hans Jonathan on the grounds that he was her property and that she intended to sell him in the West Indies. Jonathan and his lawyer protested her actions in a Copenhagen court presided over by Judge Anders Sandyo Oersted (who later became Denmark's prime minister).

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