Nov. 26, 2004 The incoming 26th Legislature will be asked to approve a bill granting tax relief to the Samuel family for their Fortsberg property, organizer Gene Emanuel said, as a group of about 50 people gathered Friday for the annual trek up to Fortsberg.
"So that this place can be preserved and they can avoid having to sell more pieces of property to pay the taxes," Emanuel said.
The Samuel land is home to Fortsberg, a stone ruin where the 1733 revolt began.
In a ceremony that preceded the trek, St. Thomas residents Jahweh David and Dara Monifah presented a colorful banner commemorating the revolt. At its center was a wood pile and a knife to represent the way the slaves gained the upper hand when they entered Fortsberg on Nov. 23, 1733. The slaves carried the knives in their bundles of wood.
The young women said a group of friends got together to make the banner.
In addition to the usual libation to honor the ancestors, the pre-hike program included the reading of a skit by Julius E. Sprauve School students. Some of the students portrayed the planters who farmed St. John in 1733. Others took the parts of the slaves.
After one of the students told of the events leading up to the revolt a drought, a hurricane and a plague of insects one student portraying a planter remarked that the food shortage meant that some of the least important slaves would be left to die.
"It's no big deal," the student read.
The skit concluded with the realization that the slaves could take over the plantations and get rid of the bad owners.
Sprauve School teacher Evans Williams said his students spent Tuesday, the revolt's 271st anniversary, studying at Fortsberg instead of in their classroom.
Emanual, in discussing the 1733 revolt, said it predated the 1776 Declaration of Independence in the United States and the 1804 Haitian revolution.
He said those 1733 slaves charted their own course by attacking the garrison at Fortsberg.
"They want us to build on that," he said.
The event also included stops at Estates Adrian and Catherineberg, both now in ruins but places that figured in St. John's history.
Many of the participants were students, including St. Thomas resident Winston Cartier, 15.
"I wanted to know more about culture and I knew I would have a fun experience," he said.
Cartier came with 13 other members of the group Environmental Rangers.
St. Thomas resident Augustine Holder also said he was interested in the historical aspects of the day.
"It's very important to understand history," he said.
And a tourist from Washington, D.C., who did not want his name used, said he came because he'd heard various versions of the Fortsberg story, but wanted speak with those who were authorities on the matter.
Gilbert Sprauve, another one of the organizers, said he was pleased to see so many new faces at this event.
"We feel like you've joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the Virgin Islands," he said.
He took issue with last year's Terra Nova television production about the 1733 revolt, claiming it had a Hollywood spin.
Sprauve said the television writers claimed that some of the slaves were empire building, but he said there was no evidence to support that idea.
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