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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, March 2, 2024


Nov. 28, 2003 – Actions by slaves in 1733 to free themselves was a revolution — not a revolt — said Sele Adeyemi as he made remarks at the 19th annual observance of the event Friday .
"The Africans controlled the island," he explained to nearly four dozen people gathered at the old Flamingo Club just outside Coral Bay before they started the trek up to Fortsberg.
Fortsberg, a ruin overlooking the sea at the top of a hill, was the site of the start of the 1733 uprising. It began on Nov. 23, when slaves carrying bundles of firewood attacked the garrison of seven Danish soldiers at Fortsberg. They killed all but one, who escaped by hiding under a bunk.
The slaves fired three cannons to lure other soldiers to the fort.
"It was an ambush," Adeyemi said.
The revolution finally ended six months later, after the French crown sent help from Martinique.
While the oft-told story of that long-ago day at Fortsberg was a significant part of the day's tour of Adrian and Catherineberg — both historic sites on Centerline Road — and the hike up hill to Fortsberg, the day was also about pride.
"We came from some place, said Gene Emanuel, who every year for 19 years has helped organize the annual trek. "We didn't drop out of the sky. We came from Africa."
Adeyemi noted that the story is still unraveling as he and other researchers look for information. He said that a lot of history has already been uncovered by others, but they brought their own perspective to the project.
Gilbert Sprauve, who also helps organize the event, said that initially the Africans were referred to as Aminas, but research showed that the term actually denoted a place and a fort in Africa.
"We ran into a certain amount of frustration, because nobody could tell us of the Aminas," he said.
To date, history has shown a link in the Virgin Islands to the Akwamus in Africa. Adeyemi said they originated in the Nile valley, eventually migrating to what is now Ghana.
"Around 1500 they began to emerge as a major power in West Africa," he said.
They began to trade with Europeans, and developed a gold "extraction" industry.
"The Akwamu had been dealing with the Danes. They knew the enemy inside and out," Sprauve said.
Painting a picture of a sophisticated society thousands and thousands of years old, Adeyemi said they had a well-developed government, religion and script.
Emanuel urged those gathered for the event, who were mostly students, to remember their link to those who fomented a revolution 270 years ago by recalling the hike up the hill to Fortsberg.
"When we look at ourselves in a mirror, we have to see our past," he said.

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