Virgin Islanders in History

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David Hamilton Jackson

David H. Jackson was born in Estate East Hill, St.Croix on September, 28 1884.  He was an educator and later became a bookkeeper at a business owned by James C. Canegata, but he was only there for a few months before he began his work for the Danish owned territory of the Virgin Islands.

Since 1779 the Danes had pressed strict censorship on all publications in the territory.  That same year an ordinance was authorized providing that only government subsidized newspapers could be published under strict government censorship.  Jackson traveled to Denmark & successfully petitioned the King of Denmark for removal of this law.  When Jackson returned home he organized the first free newspaper,  the Herald.  Liberty day is now holiday celebration of the this event.

The Herald Newspaper was just the beginning of Jackson's efforts for his people.  Ralph Bough helped Jackson organize the first labor union in the Danish West Indies during 1913.  With this union the people were able to abandon physical uprisings and begin discussing the problems with organized protests.

The labor movement later included St. Thomas, where the majority of the laborers were coal workers at the West India company wharf .  They earned $1 or more a day.  Only a small amount of St. Thomians were farmers, earning less.  On Sept. 1, 1892 the women (the majority of the coal workers were women) coal workers got frantic and demanded a wage increase and a payment in gold or its equivalent.  Gathering at Market Square and wielding sticks and other weapons to make their point.  Even though surrounded by 40 soldiers armed and prepared to take shots at the packed group, it was hard to keep the people in control.  Captain Pauludan of the military force was ready to give orders to shoot but Judge Fischer restrained him.  Luckily it rained and the crowd dispersed.

The next St. Thomas labor protest of the workers was in 1916.  By this time they had  organized the St. Thomas labor union with the help of George A. Moorehead, with a membership of about 2,700.  The coal carriers and other laborers were on strike in Oct. 1916 causing 3 ships go elsewhere for coal.  The West India Company  then entered into an agreement with the St. Thomas labor union, and began paying higher wages for the newly unionized workers.

After the labor movement the Danish government sent down a commission to study what was happening in the Danish Virgin Islands.  They came to the conclusion that Denmark was too far away and was not knowledgeable enough of the problems in the Danish West Indies, they'ld save money if they transferred the Virgin Islands to the United States rather than invest lots of money to spend improving the poor conditions.  With entry into the American market, the commission believed that the islands economy would be improved.  Fed up with the promises of reform that the Danish government had given in the past, Jackson led the way in gaining support for the transfer of the Virgin Islands.  And even after the transfer Jackson had to fight for the citizenship of the residents of the new U.S. territory.

David Hamilton Jackson died in 1946.  After serving his people as an educator, editor, labor leader, lawyer, judge, and legislator.  A housing project in Christiansted has been named in his honor.  And his birthday is a U.S. Virgin Island Holiday.

Excerpt from Essay by David Hamilton Anderson

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