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HomeNewsArchivesLead Up to Emancipation Day Starts June 29

Lead Up to Emancipation Day Starts June 29

June 27, 2008 — July 3 is Emancipation Day in the Virgin Islands, marking the day in 1848 when St. Croix's African population rose up to break the bonds and shackles of chattel slavery some 19 years before Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. St. Croix will be hosting a series of celebrations, conversations and commemorations leading up to the day, with Fourth of July celebrations the next day.
The celebration is organized every year by the History, Culture and Tradition Foundation, led by Mary L. Moorhead of Frederiksted.
Emancipation was brought about by the St. Croix slave rebellion of 1848. That revolt was lead by Moses "Gen. Buddhoe" Gottlieb, an enslaved African and master sugar boiler who could travel from plantation to plantation.
Buddhoe could read and write and was knowledgeable in world affairs. That same year revolutions swept across much of Europe, and Buddhoe may have considered himself a part of that widespread movement.
Prompted by the takeover of Fort Frederik, the military stronghold in St. Croix, and threats by the enslaved Africans to "burn down the town of Frederiksted," Gov. General Peter Von Scholten reluctantly made the proclamation "from this day onward all unfree in the Danish West Indies are free." (See "Emancipation Days: Series of Events Will Lead Up to July 3.")
The events of July 3, 1848, 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 3,000 enslaved Africans throughout the entire Danish West Indies, including St. Thomas and St. John. Though slavery was abolished, the movements of workers remained tightly controlled, leading to the Fireburn revolt thirty years later, in 1878.
To mark Emancipation Day, every year there is a donkey race, a fun pastime on St. Croix that goes way back into colonial times.
"Everyone loves the donkey race," Moorhead said Wednesday. "It's funny, and like a big country picnic. You can't help but be happy and smiling at a donkey race."
There is also a long walk from Christiansted to Frederiksted.
"It's a very spiritual event," Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said Thursday, encouraging everyone to join in. "We go slow and if you get tired, you can hop on the bus following the walk and ride."

Here is the schedule for the 160th Emancipation Day and lead-up activities:
Sunday, June 29
1 p.m.: Emancipation Donkey Races, hosted by Gentlemen of Jones
Paul E. Joseph Stadium, Frederiksted
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
7:30 p.m.: Emancipation Tea Meeting, hosted by the Department of Tourism
Featuring the Millenium Choir, Scratch Band, St. Thomas Heritage Dancers, Paul Keens-Douglas.
Customs House Square, Frederiksted
Thursday, July 3
5:30 a.m.: Fort-to-Fort Emancipation Walk, hosted by Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson,
Fort Christiansvaern, Christiansted to Fort Frederik, Frederiksted
11 a.m.: Cultural Food Village
Customs House Square
1 p.m.: Emancipation Commemoration program, featuring: Grupo Majestad Negra, historian Mario Moorhead, The Hon. Charles Williams, Chief of the Carib (Kalinago), Territory of Dominica, The Hon. Louis Farrakhan, Minister, Nation of Islam.
Emancipation Art Exhibit,
8:30 p.m.: Emancipation Street Quadrille, with Native Rhythm and dance caller Curtis Williams
Customs House Square
Friday, July 4
2 p.m.: Youth Independence Day
Featuring Charlotte Amalie High School Marching Band, St. Croix Rising Stars Orchestra and special performances by local "queens."
Don't forget to bring your portable chairs to the events. For more information, call (340) 277 7485.
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