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V.I. Emancipation Day – July 3, 2023

People in the United States Virgin Islands celebrate the V.I. Emancipation Day every year on July 3. It is considered a significant day because it commemorates the release of enslaved people from Danish rule in the West Indies. It celebrates the official abolition of slavery in the West Indies islands and is a public holiday in the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 9,000 enslaved black people revolted against the Danish colonizers on July 3, 1848. As per the orders of the then Governor-General of the Danish West Indies, Peter von Scholten, all the enslaved people were set free. The revolt was spearheaded by Moses Gottlieb.

History of V.I. Emancipation Day

The day the slaves in the Caribbean nations were freed from slavery by the colonizers is observed as a state holiday in these islands. The British Empire officially abolished slavery on August 1, 1834.

Since the mid-eighth century, the Virgin Islands, which consist of the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, were under Danish rule. The islands were ideal for sugar plantations, a highly labor-intensive crop. All of this manual labor was provided by the enslaved black people brought in ships from Africa and other areas, and were called ‘slaves.’ They exceeded the Danish settlers by a large number. One of the earliest slave uprisings occurred on St. John Island in 1733 when slaves seized control of the island for six months. However, the uprising was eventually managed and cooled down with the assistance of the French powers.

In the year 1834, Britain officially abolished slavery. The French followed suit in 1848. The slave emancipation movement in France influenced the Virgin Islands as well, thereby triggering a non-violent slave uprising on St. Croix. Despite the assurance given by the Danish Crown to liberate all the slaves permanently by 1859, the slaves were freed before time by the then Danish Governor-General.

The United States Virgin Islands has declared the anniversary of this incident a public holiday, and it is also followed by America’s Independence Day on July 4. The biggest celebration in St. Croix takes place in Frederiksted, also called the ‘Freedom City,’ where the slave insurrection of 1948 took place. The day is celebrated with much enthusiasm and the festivities include children’s games, cultural entertainment, oratory, musical shows, dance performances, food, drinks, and crafts.

V.I. Emancipation Day timeline

1672
Danish West India Company

The Danish West India Company brings the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands.

1828
Scholten Becomes The Governor-General

Scholten becomes the Governor-General of the Danish West Indies islands and works toward alleviating the burden of the enslaved people.

1848
Slavery Abolished

After being affected by the freedom movement carried on by some 9,000 slaves working in plantations, Governor Scholten orders their permanent liberation.

1878
Fire Burn Riot

Three women named, Mary, Agnes, and Matilda, stand against the oppression, colonial powers, and slavery and go on to become the face of the slave liberation movement.

V.I. Emancipation Day FAQs

When did slavery end in the Virgin Islands?

The day of the liberation of slaves traded by colonial forces is observed as a public holiday across the Caribbean. Many islands observe the day of August 1 as the day of slavery abolition as the British abolished slavery on this day in 1834.

When did the Virgin Islands get citizenship?

A 1927 act and another one in 1932, awarded most Virgin Islanders with U.S. citizenship.

What is the official language of the West Indies Caribbean islands today?

Dutch is the official language of these Caribbean islands that were under Danish rule.

How to Observe V.I. Emancipation Day

  1. Participate in the celebrations

    Participating in the celebrations is a great idea. Make sure you don't miss out on any Emancipation festivals in your area!

  2. Read about the land

    To learn more about the culture and traditions of the Virgin Islands, read history, explore cultural publications, and watch related videos on the internet. You can also visit the islands.

  3. Spread the news

    Use social media to spread awareness regarding the day’s importance. You can also launch a social media campaign using the hashtag, #V.I.Emancipation.

5 Interesting Facts About Slavery

  1. Slavery continues in the 21st century

    Slavery is not over yet; sadly, around 40 million individuals were enslaved in 2019, with a quarter of them being children.

  2. Slavery in the modern era

    Child labor, forced marriages, human trafficking, and sexual slavery are some of the prevalent and modified forms of enslavement common even today.

  3. Forced labor

    According to the reports, forced labor generates an annual profit of more than $150 billion in the U.S. alone.

  4. Children are the worst hit

    As per the U.N.I.C.E.F., more than 160 million children work as laborers in the U.S.

  5. Most child laborers

    Reports indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa employs the most child laborers i.e. around 26 % of the country’s children work as laborers.

Why V.I. Emancipation Day is Important

  1. Learn the history

    Reading and exploring the history of these islands is important. Knowing more about the freedom movements helps us to understand the malpractice of slavery.

  2. It marks the end of enslavement

    For almost two centuries, the Danish rulers were engaged in the slave trade. The V.I. Emancipation Day commemorates the struggle involved in the abolition of this degrading practice.

  3. It salutes equality and liberty

    Irrespective of color and creed, everyone is equal and holds the freedom to live as per his/her own terms. This day reminds us that a balanced and good society has no place for slavery. This is a day to salute the virtues of equality and liberty, that are essential to life.

V.I. Emancipation Day dates

YearDateDay
2023July 3Monday
2024July 3Wednesday
2025July 3Thursday
2026July 3Friday
2027July 3Saturday

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