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The Man Who Stole Himself: Lecture with Gisli Palsson
Nov 15, 2016 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm| Free
The island nation of Iceland is known for many things—majestic landscapes, volcanic eruptions, distinctive seafood—but racial diversity is not one of them. So the little-known story of Hans Jonathan, a free black man who lived and raised a family in early 19th-century Iceland, is improbable and compelling, the stuff of novels.
Join Gíslí Pálsson, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland, as he discusses his new book The Man Who Stole Himself (University of Chicago Press, September 2016), in which Pálsson lays out Jonathan’s story in stunning detail. Born into slavery in St. Croix in 1784, Jonathan was soon transported to Denmark. At age 17 he escaped and eventually enlisted in the Danish navy, later fighting in the Battle of Copenhagen. Following the war, he declared himself a free man, sparking one of the most notorious slavery lawsuits in European history, which he lost. Jonathan fled to Iceland, where he became a merchant, peasant farmer, husband, and father—and an Icelandic icon.