March 28, 2003 Monday marks the 86th anniversary of the transfer of the then-Danish West Indies to the United States. The United States bought the territory for $25 million from Denmark in a ceremony March 31, 1917.
To observe this historic event, the V.I. government will hold its annual commemoration ceremony on the grounds of the St. Thomas Legislature, the spot where the first transfer ceremony was held. It begins at 10 a.m.
West Indian Co. president Edward Thomas will offer the keynote address. Also expected to participate are Danish Consul General Michael Merck, the 73rd Army Band and students from various schools.
"This annual event serves as a catalyst to foster trade, cultural exchanges and promotion of education programs for our youth," Gov. Charles Turnbull said.
On St. Croix, a ceremony will be held at the Carl and Marie Lawaetz Museum in Little La Grange at 10 a.m.
In honor of a visit by the 75 members of the Dansk Vestindisk Selskab, who will arrive in the Virgin Islands on Saturday, Turnbull designated March as U.S. Virgin Islands-Denmark Friendship Month.
The members of the Dansk Vestindisk Selskab, which translates to the Danish West Indian Society, swap visits every two years with their counterparts in the Virgin Islands, the members of the local Friends of Denmark.
Their visits usually coincide with Transfer Day. The Friends of Denmark dates back to 1967 when then-Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky planned celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Transfer Day that included members of Dansk Vestindisk Selskab.
The Danes visiting this year will participate in a Government House reception hosted by Turnbull, who is a member of the organization. They will also tour St. Thomas, with stops at Coral World, the Peace Corps School, the historic ruins at Botany Bay, Haagensen House and Villa Notman.
The Danes will stay with members of the Friends of Denmark. Their island hosts will hold dinner parties in their honor and all will attend a farewell dinner dance.
In his proclamation naming Virgin Islands-Denmark Friendship Month, the governor said that the V.I. government recognizes the historic ancestral ties of the people of the former Danish West Indies to the people of Africa. He said that some of those people were enslaved and transported to the territory during the mid-Atlantic slave trade. He went on to say that the descendents of those slaves forced their emancipation on July 3, 1848.
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