THIS POST WAS UPDATED
Much of Finland’s history is whitewashed. One of its victims was Rosa Emilia Clay (1875-1959), Finland’s first African-born Finn who received Finnish citizenship in 1899. The naming of Rosa Emilia Clay square in Tampere is a watershed: Finland is slowly but surely awakening its rich cultural and ethnic background.
Even if Rosa Emilia Clay was born in Namibia, then German Southwest Africa, she represents all non-white Finns in the country. She is a reminder that such people not only have history but a right to it.
Better late than never.
As with others, I have also lobbied for a street named after Rosa Emilia Clay. In 2019, I contacted academic researcher Anna Rastas, who is an expert on Rosa Emilia Clay.
Apart from Tampere, I have tried unsuccessfully to lobby the Kuopio city council to name a street in Rosa Emilia Clay’s honor. Mustinlahti, which is located about 60km from Kuopio. The small village was interested in placing a plaque that would briefly mention Rosa Emilia Clay’s short stay as a teacher.
Rosa Emilia Clay suffered a lot of racism. This may explain why she never returned to Finland after she emigrated to the United States.
After graduating as an elementary school teacher in 1898, her first job was at the village of Mustinlahti. When Rosa Emilia Clay got off the boat, a father approached her and spat on the ground stating: “Did they send this kind of black Negro hag to us as a teacher? Even the kids would be afraid of a devil like that.”
Read more about Rosa Emilia Clay here.