A hundred and fifty-two years after thousands of enslaved Africans demanded their freedom before the walls of Fort Frederik in Frederiksted, a sparse audience showed up to commemorate the occasion.
On July 3, 1848, about 7,000 slaves from hundreds of St. Croix estates rose up in protest against the Danish government and planters, demanding their freedom. By proclamation of Gov. Peter von Scholten they received it.
On Monday, some 50 people went to Frederiksted to listen to a host of public officials on the 152nd anniversary of the Emancipation Day.
Gov. Charles Turnbull, a history professor before becoming governor, urged Virgin Islanders to work together in solving the territory’s economic problems. He said that if the ancestors of present-day Virgin Islanders could overcome slavery, then today’s island residents can overcome their challenges.
"If we are going to emancipate ourselves from mental and spiritual slavery, we’re going to have to love ourselves and each other," Turnbull said.
Still, the governor said the sparse turnout Monday demonstrated that more attention needs to be given to the Virgin Islands’ history. He noted that even 50 years after the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States in 1917, Emancipation Day wasn’t officially recognized. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that former Sen. Alex Moorhead, now a vice president at HOVENSA, led a move to have the day celebrated.
"It’s still not celebrated the way it should be," Turnbull said, noting his small audience in Frederiksted’s Buddhoe Park, named after one of the main leaders of the 1848 rebellion.
"We need to know our own history," Turnbull said. "At this point in time the history of the Virgin Islands has been well documented, but there is still more to be discovered."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email