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July 3rd is Emancipation Day in the U.S. Virgin Islands

July 3 in the United States Virgin Islands is Emancipation Day, the most important public holiday for many islanders.

The date commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the Danish West Indies on July 3rd, 1848.

On that date, 9,000 enslaved black residents on the island of St. Croix, led by Moses “General Buddhoe” Gottlieb, revolted and demanded their freedom.

Overwhelmed, the Danish Governor, Peter von Scholten, declared “all unfree in the Danish West Indies are from today free.”

This was despite the fact that the Danish Crown said that the last slaves would be emancipated in 1859, eleven years from that date.

This was also 17 years prior to slavery being abolished in the United States with the passing of the 13th Amendment.

In Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, there is a public park known as Emancipation Park. On one side of the park, a man blowing a conch shell is displaced; the conch shell was used by slaver owners as a call to work in the morning. In the park, as well, is duplication of the Liberty Bell and a bust of King Christian IX of Denmark.

Across the Caribbean, island countries mark the emancipation of slaves brought by colonial powers as a public holiday. Many islands celebrate August 1st, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery across the British Empire in 1834. In the Virgin Islands and across the Caribbean, we cherish and celebrate the basic Right to Freedom when we celebrate our deep-rooted history.

It’s the perfect holiday to celebrate before celebrating Independence Day on July 4th. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating.