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HomeNewsArchivesBlack History Spotlight: Aminita C. N. Burnet

Black History Spotlight: Aminita C. N. Burnet

Feb. 9, 2005 – Aminita Clarita Natalia Burnet left her native island of St. Thomas, Danish West Indies at an early age, but her heart never left the Virgin Islands. Burnet would leave a life-long legacy of service to her indigenous countrymen and to everyone who had the opportunity to know her. Burnet's accomplishments are listed in "Profiles of Outstanding Virgin Islanders," a collection of writings which detail the contributions of notable Virgin Islanders.
Although there is not a lot of information on Burnet's early life on St. Thomas, it is known she was the principal of the former Bethesda School, located at the western end of Charlotte Amalie. Some time before or during the early 1940s, Burnet went to New York where she earned a jurist doctorate degree in 1946.
Aminita, the daughter of Caroline Mitchell Burnet and Auguste Burnet, a Dronningens Gade merchant, is also mentioned in a book by Geraldo Guirty. Guirty's book, "Harlem's Danish-American West Indians, 1899-1964," describes Burnet as a school teacher employed by the New York City Department of Education. Guirty goes on to say that "she earned the distinction of becoming the first known Virgin Islander to pass the New York City Bar Association admissions examination."
Burnet, who attended New York University and Saint John's University law schools, is also said to be the first known St. Thomas native to be recognized as a qualifying attorney by the United States Supreme Court.
Despite becoming a lawyer, Burnet continued teaching the children of New York City. "Profiles" states that in 1948 Burnet was nominated by students at Manhattan's Public School 157 in a "Best Teacher" contest, which she won. Burnet continued her schooling, earning a bachelor's and then a master's degree in education. Her master's thesis, "Education in the Virgin Islands Under Denmark and America," served as one of the earliest sources of information on the education system in the Virgin Islands.
Burnet, along with fellow Virgin Islanders Ludvig E. Harrigan and Carl H. Madsen, both Crucians, founded the Federation of Virgin Islands Societies in Harlem, N.Y. The organization was founded with the intent to better conditions on their home islands and for the compatriots who remained there. The driving force of the federation was for solidarity and the achievement of self determination in the Virgin Islands, which were still under Navy rule. Burnet continued her crusade for self government in the Virgin Islands until her death on Feb. 7, 1977, in New York City.

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