Oct. 31, 2004 On Nov. 1, the Virgin Islands celebrates the life and times of David Hamilton Jackson, educator, journalist, judge, legislator and labor leader. Formerly known as Liberty Day, the holiday was later renamed David Hamilton Jackson Day.
On St. Croix, the Grove Place Action committee traditionally hosts the activities, and organizers are preparing to welcome thousands of visitors to the tiny West End village on Monday. On even-numbered years the holiday is celebrated the day before general elections, and politicians and their supporters will be taking advantage of the crowds to do some "last lap" politicking.
Jackson (18841946) was born in Estate Hill, St Croix, on Sept. 28, 1884. Both his parents were educated, and Jackson attended East Hill School, where his father was principal. He worked as a bookkeeper at a business owned by James C. Canegata and was known as a community activist. In 1913, with the help of Ralph Bough, Jackson organized the first labor union. Men, women and children on St. Croix were working in cane fields from dawn until dusk for 10 and 20 cents a day. The labor movement later included St. Thomas where the majority of the population were coal workers employed by the West India Company. They earned one dollar or more a day. The union allowed the laborers on both islands to abandon physical uprisings for better working conditions in favor of organized protests.
Because of his knowledge and oratorical skills Hamilton was selected to go to Denmark and make a plea to remove the censorship of newspapers in the then Danish West Indies. He fought and won his case before King Christian X, and in 1915 established the territory's first free press, The Herald.
The Danish government was gradually realizing that governance over its only colonies was becoming increasingly cumbersome. They entered into negotiations to transfer the Virgin Islands to the United States of America. Jackson led the way in gaining support for the 1917 transfer.
On Monday, government offices and schools will be closed territorywide in observance of the holiday. Events in Estate Grove Place on St. Croix begin at noon and continue until well after dusk. According to Raymond Williams, Grove Place Action committee president, the event will include historical information presented by various speakers and direct descendants of Jackson. Several schools will provide entertainment. Vendors will line the outskirts of the village circle selling a variety of local foods, drinks and desserts.
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