Arnold Highfield spent countless hours deciphering the stylized penmanship of historical accounts of the Virgin Islands. He dug deep into centuries-old archives to document and preserve this material for future generations. The prolific author, historian and professor passed away last weekend, leaving behind treasured translations of some of the earliest records of life in the territory under Danish rule, which serve as critical references to understanding the territory’s turbulent past.
The family seeks to memorialize him by partnering with the National Park Service on St. Croix to establish a special library of his private collection of books.
“It is forward thinking and a fitting tribute to a man who painstakingly researched and collaborated with international scholars on works that drew out the obscure details of life in these islands, even of the enslaved Africans, whose free labor led to the economic success and high standard of living enjoyed by Denmark and the other colonial flags which flew over the islands,” Senate Vice President Myron D. Jackson said.
Highfield studied medieval history in his early college years, followed by doctoral work in romance languages, and what became a lifelong obsession with the colonial history of the Danish West Indies. A long-time resident of St. Croix, he moved in the 1960s to the island. He is well-respected in his field and has received numerous awards for his work. In between writing, he shared his expertise with up and coming students of history, teaching at Central High School, the University of the Virgin Islands, in the states, Europe and the Caribbean.
“He taught us the power of recording our stories because centuries later these written testaments to our existence are what survive. They provide critical insight into the social, economic, cultural and political thought of the times,” Jackson said. “On behalf of myself, my family and staff, we join the territory in expressing appreciation for his contributions to the Virgin Islands through his literary and academic pursuits, and for his writings and publications which will continue to illuminate our past and our present.”
Senate Vice President Myron D. Jackson