By Martin Selsoe Sorensen, nytimes.com
Long after his death, Hans Jonathan has, at last, gotten some attention. He is the subject of a well-received biography and a groundbreaking genetic study, and is something of a celebrity in Iceland, where he is thought to have been the first black person.
But in Denmark, where Hans Jonathan (he had no surname) was a slave, fought in a war, lost a noted case on slavery, and escaped bondage by fleeing to Iceland, his extraordinary story has not drawn much interest.
An American descendant got a polite rejection when she asked the Danish government to declare him, posthumously, a free man. When people stroll past a five-story mansion that sits less than 100 yards from the royal Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, there is no historical marker to tell of the Schimmelmann family who owned it, or the slaves they kept there, including Hans Jonathan.