Open forum: Senate Vice President Jackson Reflects on Contract Day

Copyright Elroy Simmonds: detail from the mural at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands (photo taken by Senator Myron D. Jackson)

Dear Source:

Senate Vice-President Myron D. Jackson encourages the entire Virgin Islands community to pause and reflect on the anniversary of Contract Day, which commemorates the 1878 Labor Revolt on St. Croix in which legendary queens led a job action for better working conditions.

On Oct. 1, 1878, new labor contracts were signed into effect. Plantation workers were paid minimal wages and were forced to remain on the estates to which they were bound during slavery. Additionally, they were prevented from negotiating the terms of their employment. Incensed with these restrictions, thirty years after the end of slavery, they set plantations across Frederiksted ablaze in what is popularly known as the “Fireburn.”

“Throughout our history women have played a significant and co-equal role in our governance and cultural and economic development. Our quest for equal rights and self-determination has been no different,” Sen. Jackson said. “Our women have been at our side or also led us into victory.”

Senator Jackson remembered leaders of the 1878 Labor Revolt, including Queen Mary Thomas, one of the leaders of the revolt, along with Queen Axeline “Agnes” Salomon, Queen Matilda McBean, and Queen Susanna Abramson.

The event is remembered annually in Frederiksted by various community groups, usually through the performance of a play by Richard Schrader, talk by Mario Moorhead, and a re-enactment walk through the town.

“I encourage everyone to take note of this significant date in Virgin Islands history, and to draw strength from our Queens,” Senator Jackson said.

Senate Vice-President Myron D. Jackson