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2021 Virgin Islands History Month

There is Virgin Islands History All Around Us


The primary industry in the Virgin Islands has historically been the production of sugar. In 1930, the West India Sugar Factory, Inc., operated by the Danish empire, which controlled 75 percent of the sugar business in St. Croix, discontinued operation. The sugar industry in the Virgin Islands crashed during the Great Depression in 1933. Much of the Virgin Islands' labor force was intertwined with the sugar cane industry, and many persons were unable to make a living, and many were unemployed on the island of St. Croix. Between 1938 and 1945, a persistent drought hit the cane fields of St. Croix.

Additionally, World War I hurt the trade and shipping business, significantly affecting the St. Thomas harbor industry. The United States reformed Wall street and provided relief for farmers in the New Deal. The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms put forth by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's regulations in the United States between 1933 and 1939.

The Subsistence Homesteading Division (DSH) of the U.S. Department of the Interior was one of the New Deal programs that assisted many Americas, including Virgin Islanders with small plots of land with modest but modern houses with the aim to assist new farmers in becoming self-sustaining.

One of the Subsistence Homesteading Programs was the "Farm Projects." The project was formed to help farm families become independent of Industrial Homesteads and redistributed families from congested urban areas. There was a migration of Puerto Rican families who came to St. Croix and took part in the homesteading projects. Estate Saint John Homestead Community – St. Croix, Estate Whim Homestead Community, Estate Mandahl Homestead Community – St. Thomas, Estates Colquhoun, and Mount Pleasant Homestead Communities, Bethlehem, a large section of Frederiksted Town, La Grande Princesse Homestead Community – St. Croix, Bassin Triangle, H. H. Berg Low-Rent Housing, Lindbergh Bay Homestead Community – St. Thomas and the repair of Blue Beard Castle were all homestead projects

Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas. His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. His father sent him to Paris, France, from 1842 to 1847 to receive his early education at a boarding school in Passy, a small village near Paris. Camille's father did not want his son to be a painter; however, Camille advocated for his passion and became a painter by profession. As a painter, Camille Pissarro is referred to as "revolutionary: through his artistic portrayal of the ordinary person. Camille Pissarro work consistently focused on pointing individuals in natural settings without artifice or grandeur

The St. Croix White breed is the most common local breed of sheep and is known for being prolific, cycles year-round and has a high degree of parasite tolerance. Both males and females reach puberty at about 8-10 months of age and are polled. Ewes and rams are polled (no horns), and rams have a large throat ruff. St. Croix sheep can live in a wide variety of climates. They are well adapted to the hot humid climate of the tropics and can survive in cold temperatures. Their hair coat lets them tolerate the heat, and they grow a thick wool coat in cold winter temperatures. Their coat sheds water. These sheep are known as 'Parasitic Pasture Vacuums' for their ability to clear a pasture of parasites reducing the need to worm sheep. St. Croix also shows resistance to hoof rot. St. Croix ewes produce ample quantities of milk high in butterfat.

In the mid-1960s, many small territories with little prospects of becoming states began to petition for representation in Congress. Starting in 1970, the House of Representatives started to grant representation to territories, but with limited voting rights.

Delegates, representing territories that had not yet achieved statehood, have served in the House since the late 1700s. In the 114th Congress, the U.S. insular areas of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia's federal municipality gained representation in Congress by a delegate to the House of Representatives. Also, Puerto Rico is represented by a resident commissioner, whose position is treated the same as a delegate.

Currently, delegates enjoy powers, rights, and responsibilities identical, in many respects, to those of House Members from the states. Delegates can speak and introduce bills and resolutions on the floor of the House, offer amendments and most motions on the House floor, and speak and vote in House committees. Delegates are not, however, Members of the House. They cannot vote on the House floor; consequently, they cannot offer motions to reconsider a vote during floor debate, and they are not counted for quorum purposes in the House. Delegates are currently not permitted to vote in or preside over either the Committee of the Whole or the House.

The Virgin Islands provided six delegates to Congress. In this order, Ron de Lugo, Melvin H. Evans, Ron de Lugo, Victor O. Frazer, Donna Christian Christiansen, and Stacey Plaskett. Currently, Delegate Stacey Plaskett serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, the oldest and one of the most exclusive committees in Congress and House Committee on Budget. Hon. Stacey Plaskett has become a powerful force in Congress and uses her influence to provide more opportunities for the Virgin Islands. Most recently, Delegate Plaskett served as an impeachment manager for the second Trump impeachment trial. The Delegate received national attention for her sharpness as a prosecutor and her impeachment attire which garnered further adoration.


Virgin Islands – Puerto Rico Friendship Day is a public holiday celebrated in the Virgin Islands of the United States on the second Monday in October. Established in 1964 by Governor Paiewonsky, it honors Puerto Ricans who reside in or who have made substantial contributions to the Virgin Islands. The mainland of Puerto Rico lies approximately 40 miles from the US Virgin Islands with the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques in between and many Puerto Ricans have lived in the Virgin Islands since at least the turn of the twentieth century. As of 2010, around 10% of the population of the United States Virgin Islands. The date was chosen to fall on the same day as Columbus Day.

A large migration of Puerto families settled in the Virgin Islands starting in the 1920s. Earlier, Puerto Rican intellectual, medical doctor, and independence advocate Ramón Emeterio Betances took refuge from political discourse on the islands of St. Thomas. Betances penned the famous proclamation, "Los Diez Mandamientos de Los hombre Libres" (The Ten Commandments of Free Men), in Saint Thomas while in exile in November 1867. The proclamation is directly based on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, adopted by France's National Assembly in 1789, which contained the principles that inspired the French Revolution.


Oral history has it that slaves often practiced the traditional bamboula art form in the “bush.” Bamboula is a dance that originated from Africa and spread throughout the West Indies, South, Central, and North America, and other regions of the Western Hemisphere where Africans were imported as slaves. The bamboula dance is the soul beat of the drum on goatskin, which players pounded with fingers and the heels of the hand to alter the timbre. It is a powerful rhythm sound, transcending you physically and spiritually.

In the West Indies, and wherever the bamboula dance ritual was performed during the colonial period of the West, white planters were afraid of the enslaved Africans’ music. They felt threatened that a slave revolt might occur, impacting the plantation economy. Case in point, on Aug. 8, 1672, Gov. Jorgen Iversen banned bamboula dancing on the island of St. Thomas. Slaves who were caught dancing bamboula risked imprisonment at Fort Christian and a public lashing.

Richard Haagensen, a Danish observer, mentioned the slaves and their dances on the island of St. Croix in a small pamphlet published in 1758, titled Beskrivelse over Eylandet: “Drums sounded in the warm dark night and the jungle came to life again … Here something was happening which the white people did not understand and which they feared … At first the planters laughed at the monotonous music and the violent dances, but deep down they feared that this recreated jungle atmosphere might create rebellion … so they passed numerous laws forbidding these dances.”


Frenchtown is a small French fishing settlement on the St. Thomas island of Charlotte Amalie. The majority of the population in Frenchtown, also known as Carénage, can trace their roots to the French Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy (St. Barths), since their parents, grandparents, or great grandparents immigrated to St. Thomas from that island. Several inhabitants were born in St. Barths and relocated to St. Thomas as children or adolescents. The trade and migration between St. Barths and St. Thomas are widely documented in oral history and historical records dating from the 1800s and 1900s. Census data, arrival records, and historical newspapers detail the arrival of vessels, goods, and people from St. Barths to St. Thomas.

The early migrants, the majority of whom were men, moved to St. Thomas in search of better employment prospects. They were soon joined by relatives and friends, as well as wives and children, and they formed a little village.

Today, the French community in St. Thomas is firmly established. With almost 150 years of history on the island, they honor both their French and Virgin Islands ancestors. To safeguard the preservation of their story and to enable them to share it with the public, they established a modest museum, the French Heritage Museum.

The famous St. John petroglyphs are located at the upper waterfall in the Reef Bay valley, just off the Reef Bay Trail in the Virgin Islands National Park.  Studied by archeologists for decades, the petroglyphs are rock carvings made by Taino Indians as early as 500 AD. 

The carvings, also found along the Caribbean island chain as far down as Venezuela, typically depict faces and symbols and are situated right along the edge of a spring-fed pool.  The pool level never changes, so the carvings are always perfectly reflected in the water. The Petroglyph Site was established in the National Register of Historic Places on July 7, 1982.

Ken Wild, a local archeologist for the VI National Park, with a team of volunteers from Friends of the Park, came across a new petroglyph nearby in 2011 of what is thought to be the oldest petroglyph on the island.  Wild said, “The ones that reflect off the water are Classic Taino period, but this other guy, he’s different.”

The revelation is a major breakthrough in the study of pre-Columbian civilization in the Virgin Islands. “It represents at the minimum 1,500 years they were going to Reef Bay as a sacred place and making carvings,” Wild says.




The book chronicles three generations of a single-family living through the territory's modern history, from Danish to American control. Tiphanie Yanique, the writer, hails from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Yanique is a Caribbean American fiction writer, poet, and essayist who lives in New York. In 2010 the National Book Foundation named her a "5 Under 35" honoree. She also teaches creative writing, currently based at Emory University. Yanique won the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize (formerly the Flaherty-Dunnan Center for Fiction Prize) for her debut novel Land of Love and Drowning,[and the monthly book review publication BookPage listed her as one of the "14 Women to Watch Out for in 2014". The publication “Land of Love and Drowning” also won the Phillis Wheatley Award for Pan-African Literature, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, and was listed by NPR as one of the Best Books of 2014, as well as being a finalist for the Orion Award in Environmental Literature and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

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