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Hans Jonatan left Denmark in 1802 and eventually started a new life as an immigrant in Iceland.

But he was an unusual Icelander. Unlike most Icelanders—and even most immigrants to Iceland—Hans Jonatan was mixed-race and a former slave.

By piecing together genetic information from his descendants, scientists in Iceland have now reconstructed a substantial portion of Jonatan’s own genome and genetic history.
Jonatan’s history has been a subject of fascination, not only because he was an unexpected person to find in 19th-century Iceland, but because of his role in Danish legal history. His journey started in the Caribbean, where he was born to an enslaved mother in the then-Danish colony of St.

Croix. Jonatan and his mother were brought along when the plantation-owning family returned to Denmark, but Jonatan managed to escape and ended up joining the Danish Navy.
When he was eventually caught and imprisoned, his lawyer argued for his emancipation on the grounds that slavery was illegal in Denmark, albeit still legal in Danish colonies. Jonatan lost the case, and the judge ordered that Jonatan should be returned to the Caribbean. He escaped again and disappeared from Denmark, turning up in 1805 in Iceland.
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