Aviva Directory » Local & Global » North America » Caribbean Islands » Islands » Virgin Islands » U.S. Virgin Islands

The United States Virgin Islands which are also called the American Virgin Islands is officially known as the Virgin Islands of the United States and is a group of Caribbean islands which are geographically situated in the Virgin Islands archipelago in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. It is classified as an unincorporated and organized United States territory which consists of the main islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Saint John as as numerous smaller islands. Its capital is Charlotte Amalie which is on Saint Thomas.

Once called the Spanish West Indies of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway, the islands were sold to the United States by Denmark per the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916.

The islands were first sighted in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, who named it in honor of Saint Ursula and her handmaidens. He also named several of the islands, including Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix. In 1555, an expedition from Spain conquered the Caribs and claimed the islands for Spain, but in 1625, both French and English settlers were running farms on Saint Croix. In 1650, Spain kicked out the remaining English settlers, only to have France take the islands back once again that same year. In 1653, Saint Croix was willed to the Knights of Malta, who sold it to the French India Company. In 1666, Britain evicted the Dutch buccaneers from Tortola, and almost immediately, Denmark claimed Saint Thomas, and in 1684, it claimed Saint John.

The Danes started growing sugar cane, and at first, they used convicted criminals for the labor involved, but after 1673, they used Africal slaves. The Danes bought Saint Croix in 1733 and before long it was a major producer of sugar cane.

In 1733, the population of slaves, mostly from Akwamu, which is present-day Ghana, on the island was 1,087 while the numberer of whites was 206, and the Danes provided only six soldiers for the defense of all of Saint John.

Also in 1733, a long drought was followed by a forceful hurricane and a crop failure, and that was followed by the 1733 slave insurrection on Saint John Island. On November 23 of that year, 150 African slaves frose up against the owners of Saint John's plantations. It started with numerous slaves from Saint John as well as other parts of the West Indies, began running away from their plantations to stay in the woods. This is called "marooning."

In October, more slaves went maroon, and the island's legislature passed the "Slave Code of 1733" in an effort to force slaves to be obedient by attaching extreme punishments for disobedience; punishments including public whipping, amputation of digits and limbs, or death by hanging, for example.

There were soon plans to start an insurrection, to make Saint John an Akwamu-ruled country. To that end, on November 23,open acts of rebellion began to take place. The first plantation to be targeted was the Coral Bay. An hour later, a group of slaves were allowed into the fort at Coral Bay under the pretext of delivering wood. But the piles of wood they carried had knives hidden in them, and they used those knives to murder most of the soldiers at the fort. One solder survived, and he was able to escape Saint Thomas and inform the Danish officials about what was happening. In the meantime, a group of rebels stayed with the leader, King June, in the now-abandoned fort. A cannon at the fort fired off a shot then, signaling that it had been taken, and triggering other groups to take control of all of the estates in Coral Bay, killing many of the whites there.

And so it went, with some plantation owners repelling the rebels and some escaping them, and a few doing both.

French colonists at Martinique, and they arrived in two ships with a few hundred Swiss and French troops on April 23, 1734. They were there to take back the island. It took them nearly a month to do so, but by mid-May, the planters' rule of the island was restored. On June 1, the ships left for Martinique, leaing the local militia to round up the rest of the rebels. The rebellion was finally over on August 25, when the final maroon rebels were captured.

By 1800, the sugar industry was in decline and slave revolts had changed both the sugar industry and the stability of slavery. In 1848, slavery was abolished in the islands.

The United States, which wanted to own the islands, started negotiations with Denmark to buy them from Denmark. In 1917, the U.S. paid Denmark $25 million, and the Department of the Navy administered them until 1931, when the Department of the Interior took over. Tourism took hold after World War II.

In 1954, the 1954 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, which established the executive branch, a unicameral legislature, a court system, and a bill of rights, became the foundation for the governmental structure in he American Virgin Islands.


Saint Croix

Saint John

Saint Thomas

Water Island



Recommended Resources

Search for U.S. Virgin Islands on Google or Bing