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HomeNewsArchivesSenator Myron D. Jackson’s Emancipation Day Speech Theme: “The Road to Emancipation”

Senator Myron D. Jackson’s Emancipation Day Speech Theme: “The Road to Emancipation”

This morning I have the honor of providing you with a brief historical sketch entitled “The Road to Emancipation” during our 165th observance of this significant event and chapter of our history. This heroic act by our ancestors transformed our society and laid the foundation for many of the civil liberties we enjoy today in our beloved homeland.
This morning I dedicate this speech to Nelson Mandela as he makes peace with his maker for the journey we all must take.
The end of slavery in the Danish West Indies had several factors that contributed to the end of this institution of human bondage and degradation. Our kinfolk of the British Virgin Islands and English West Indies had been freed by act of emancipation on August 28, 1833. Today many of us flock to the BVI on the first Monday in August to participate in festival activities not very mindful of the history and implications of this annual holiday. The same can be said of our own July 3rd Emancipation Day holiday and Fourth of July Celebration. Much has been forgotten since 1848.
Spurred by the English act of emancipation, accounts tell us that the then Governor General of the Danish West Indies, Peter von Scholten, went to Denmark in 1833 to press for new reform slave laws. A plan was submitted to a committee which resulted in the royal ordinance of November 22, 1834. This ordinance established that a slave had the right to purchase his or her freedom, even against the owner’s permission by paying his or her designated full value, the right of possession of anything gotten by working, by gift, purchase or by inheritance, intervention in labor reform and abuses, and erection of schools for enslaved children. This was von Scholten’s and the Danish crown’s gradual approach to the so called “preliminary emancipation proclamation” of Africans in the colony. The violations of human rights for our ancestors, referred to in official documents as the “Unfree,” lingered for 14 more years under various royal ordinances and resolutions pertaining to their enslavement.
On July 28, 1847, on the eve of queen’s birthday, King Christian VIII of Denmark issued yet another decree. This royal decree abolished slavery in the Danish West Indies in 1848 for all newborn, and 12 years later for all adults. That would postpone emancipation to the year 1859 or 1860. Many realized that they would not live to be free men and women. This was unacceptable and was the last straw for Africans in the colony. This was the final nail in the coffin. Two courageous men and emerging charismatic leaders such as Moses Gottlieb—an educated master sugar boiler from La Grange known to us as General Buddhoe, and Admiral Martin King—his Lieutenant from the plantation located in mid-island St. Croix, planned a strategy to organize their people to strike a blow to the oppressive system that kept them inferior and enslaved. Over the course of several months plans were secretly put in place. The stage had been set.
There is the notion that there was no agitation coming from Africans on the island of St. Thomas. In May of 1848, fueling coal to the fire, news from the French West Indies about regional unrest and revolt by Africans on Martinique reached St. Thomas. The Police Master Berg on St. Thomas directed local arms dealers to report any suspicious activity. On June 2nd, the rumor spread that the African Tortolian workers on the Charlotte Amalie Harbor’s coal wharf had declared that in the event of a revolt on St. Thomas, they would side with the slaves.
Finally the time had come, and on Sunday, July 2nd, the call was put out to West End and North Side Africans on the plantations to come to Fort Frederik in the town of Frederiksted. By sunset it was certain in the wind that something unusual was about to happen. Like the mysterious sounds emitted from active bee hives, the drums of outlawed Gombay, Bamboula, and African rhythms and codes for the call to order could be heard coming from the hills and valleys of neighboring plantations. European planters and their families began to desert their plantations and town houses, and women and children were sent to take refuge on ships offshore, in churches and hidden areas. The men headed for the Fort and barricaded themselves inside its protective walls. By sunrise, church and plantation bells and Tutu conch shells charged the already tense air as hundred of Africans converged in the town of Frederiksted.
On July 3rd, Peter von Scholten, recently returning from St. Thomas was notified of the actions of the enslaved population at his private residence at Bulow’s Minde in Christiansted, St. Croix. A state of emergency was about to be declared. A call for military assistance was issued to neighboring colonies. The discontented Africans, now congregated at the fort, proved too large for the Danish militia and soldiers petrified behind its masonry wall. The whipping post was ripped out of its footing, carted to the bayside and thrown in the sea. By 12:00 o’clock that afternoon, von Scholten was given a demand by General Buddhoe—“We want ah we freedom or we are going to burn the town of Frederiksted down and the rest of St. Croix will be in our hands.” This demand for action was extended to 4:00 o’clock that afternoon. Minutes to 4 o’clock the Governor General arrived in his speeding carriage to the fort and emerged on its rampart and von Scholten read—“From this day onward, all unfree in the Danish West Indies are today free.”
Today, 165 years later, we honor our ancestors who gave of their sweat, blood, tears, and lives for our Freedom. This event is one of the defining moments in the shared history of the Virgin Islands of the United States and Denmark. The Ghanaian word proverbial word Sankofa is an Akan word that means—“We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today. So in order to make the best of one’s future, one must visit the past.” God bless you and the Virgin Islands of the United States.

Editor’s note: Sen. Myron D. Jackson is a member of the 30 Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

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This morning I have the honor of providing you with a brief historical sketch entitled “The Road to Emancipation” during our 165th observance of this significant event and chapter of our history. This heroic act by our ancestors transformed our society and laid the foundation for many of the civil liberties we enjoy today in our beloved homeland.
This morning I dedicate this speech to Nelson Mandela as he makes peace with his maker for the journey we all must take.
The end of slavery in the Danish West Indies had several factors that contributed to the end of this institution of human bondage and degradation. Our kinfolk of the British Virgin Islands and English West Indies had been freed by act of emancipation on August 28, 1833. Today many of us flock to the BVI on the first Monday in August to participate in festival activities not very mindful of the history and implications of this annual holiday. The same can be said of our own July 3rd Emancipation Day holiday and Fourth of July Celebration. Much has been forgotten since 1848.
Spurred by the English act of emancipation, accounts tell us that the then Governor General of the Danish West Indies, Peter von Scholten, went to Denmark in 1833 to press for new reform slave laws. A plan was submitted to a committee which resulted in the royal ordinance of November 22, 1834. This ordinance established that a slave had the right to purchase his or her freedom, even against the owner’s permission by paying his or her designated full value, the right of possession of anything gotten by working, by gift, purchase or by inheritance, intervention in labor reform and abuses, and erection of schools for enslaved children. This was von Scholten’s and the Danish crown’s gradual approach to the so called “preliminary emancipation proclamation” of Africans in the colony. The violations of human rights for our ancestors, referred to in official documents as the “Unfree,” lingered for 14 more years under various royal ordinances and resolutions pertaining to their enslavement.
On July 28, 1847, on the eve of queen’s birthday, King Christian VIII of Denmark issued yet another decree. This royal decree abolished slavery in the Danish West Indies in 1848 for all newborn, and 12 years later for all adults. That would postpone emancipation to the year 1859 or 1860. Many realized that they would not live to be free men and women. This was unacceptable and was the last straw for Africans in the colony. This was the final nail in the coffin. Two courageous men and emerging charismatic leaders such as Moses Gottlieb—an educated master sugar boiler from La Grange known to us as General Buddhoe, and Admiral Martin King—his Lieutenant from the plantation located in mid-island St. Croix, planned a strategy to organize their people to strike a blow to the oppressive system that kept them inferior and enslaved. Over the course of several months plans were secretly put in place. The stage had been set.
There is the notion that there was no agitation coming from Africans on the island of St. Thomas. In May of 1848, fueling coal to the fire, news from the French West Indies about regional unrest and revolt by Africans on Martinique reached St. Thomas. The Police Master Berg on St. Thomas directed local arms dealers to report any suspicious activity. On June 2nd, the rumor spread that the African Tortolian workers on the Charlotte Amalie Harbor’s coal wharf had declared that in the event of a revolt on St. Thomas, they would side with the slaves.
Finally the time had come, and on Sunday, July 2nd, the call was put out to West End and North Side Africans on the plantations to come to Fort Frederik in the town of Frederiksted. By sunset it was certain in the wind that something unusual was about to happen. Like the mysterious sounds emitted from active bee hives, the drums of outlawed Gombay, Bamboula, and African rhythms and codes for the call to order could be heard coming from the hills and valleys of neighboring plantations. European planters and their families began to desert their plantations and town houses, and women and children were sent to take refuge on ships offshore, in churches and hidden areas. The men headed for the Fort and barricaded themselves inside its protective walls. By sunrise, church and plantation bells and Tutu conch shells charged the already tense air as hundred of Africans converged in the town of Frederiksted.
On July 3rd, Peter von Scholten, recently returning from St. Thomas was notified of the actions of the enslaved population at his private residence at Bulow’s Minde in Christiansted, St. Croix. A state of emergency was about to be declared. A call for military assistance was issued to neighboring colonies. The discontented Africans, now congregated at the fort, proved too large for the Danish militia and soldiers petrified behind its masonry wall. The whipping post was ripped out of its footing, carted to the bayside and thrown in the sea. By 12:00 o’clock that afternoon, von Scholten was given a demand by General Buddhoe—“We want ah we freedom or we are going to burn the town of Frederiksted down and the rest of St. Croix will be in our hands.” This demand for action was extended to 4:00 o’clock that afternoon. Minutes to 4 o’clock the Governor General arrived in his speeding carriage to the fort and emerged on its rampart and von Scholten read—“From this day onward, all unfree in the Danish West Indies are today free.”
Today, 165 years later, we honor our ancestors who gave of their sweat, blood, tears, and lives for our Freedom. This event is one of the defining moments in the shared history of the Virgin Islands of the United States and Denmark. The Ghanaian word proverbial word Sankofa is an Akan word that means—“We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today. So in order to make the best of one’s future, one must visit the past.” God bless you and the Virgin Islands of the United States.

Editor’s note: Sen. Myron D. Jackson is a member of the 30 Legislature of the Virgin Islands.