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HomeNewsArchivesFreedom Scenes Play Out in ‘Freedom City’ for Emancipation Day

Freedom Scenes Play Out in ‘Freedom City’ for Emancipation Day

July 3, 2007 — The 159th Emancipation Day activities came to a dramatic close Tuesday in "Freedom City" — Frederiksted — with a vivid reenactment, oral-history presentations and dance productions.
More than 200 residents and visitors watched intently as the Caribbean Dance Company reenacted the events leading up to Gov. General Peter Von Scholten's announcement that proclaimed freedom to all enslaved people in the Virgin Islands.
"We come here to hear the story of our ancestors," said Carl Christopher, who portrayed Moses "Gen. Buddhoe" Gottlieb, the leader of the revolt. Dancers clad in white dresses and turbans portrayed enslaved Africans, accompanied by a band of energetic drummers. The story of that historic day unfolded in the shadow of Fort Frederik, in an area now aptly called Buddhoe Park.
Christopher told of the plan to gather workers from all the plantations and converge on the fort. The plan was to "shed no blood," but not back down until they were given their freedom. The Guardians of Culture mocko jumbies crept — as best they could on six-foot stilts, peeking through tree branches — into the area as Christopher invoked the spirits of the ancestors. The dancers began to "spread the word" of the impending revolt. Soon a group of women began to tear down the symbol of slavery they most reviled — the town whipping post.
Several years ago, the remains of an actual whipping post were discovered near Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted. (See “Remnant of Christiansted Whipping Post Unearthed.”)
The dancers struggled and cried in anguish as they pulled and tugged the post from its base and shouted in jubilation as it was unearthed. Afterwards they held the post high above their heads in victory. The crowd shouted and cheered.
Von Scholten had a decision to make, Christopher told the crowd. His militia was undermanned and there was no time to call for reinforcements. He had no choice but to go to the fort and make the announcement. So, in front of more than the 8,000 enslaved Africans gathered there, he walked to the command post and made the proclamation that "All unfree in the Danish West Indies are from today free."
The events of that day ushered in a new era between the black working class and the Danish crown. The proclamation freed not only the blacks in Frederiksted, which was the capital of the Danish West Indies, but also the nearly 30,000 enslaved Africans throughout the entire Danish West Indies, including St. Thomas and St. John.
A Denmark native attending Tuesday’s reenactment offered praise for the performers.
"This has been one of the better performances I have ever witnessed," said Lief Pedersen, as the crowds began to disperse to watch other performances in the area.
Pedersen, originally from Denmark, has lived on St. Croix since 1980 and was involved in the 150th celebration, he said. "This is a high-caliber performance,” he said.
Also included in the day's activities were historian Mario Moorhead; One Voice Production, choreographed and synthesized by the Caribbean Dance Company; Nana Mary Apeadu-Lewis; Per Ankh Neteru Ankhsamble; Dembaya Arts Conservatory; Eddie Russell and the Quelbe Latin Jazz Ensemble; Cedelle Christopher; Okolo Tegremantine Arts Theatre of St. Kitts; the V.I. Arts Ensemble; Bomba Allick; Lorna Freeman; and Eugene Petersen.
The Emancipation events were hosted by the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation. It was sponsored by the V.I. government, the Department of Tourism and the V.I. Council of the Arts. Other supporting organizations included the Society of V.I. Historians, the Gentlemen of Jones, the Rigidims Festival Troupe and the St. Croix Landmark Society.
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