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Remember the Fireburn! Territorial History Gets National Boost

June 25, 2008 — A resolution to incorporate the contributions of people from U.S. territories and territorial histories into U.S. history teachings passed the U.S. House of Representatives Monday.
"Our nation is strengthened by the diversity of its citizens, and individuals from the territories of the United States contribute to that diversity," said Delegate Donna M. Christensen in a news release.
Christensen sponsored the bill.
People from the United States should understand and appreciate the significant contributions to U.S. history of individuals from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the resolution states. Those who made significant contributions to American culture — whether through politics, music, arts, science, sports, education or other fields — will be included.
Many people from the Virgin Islands made enormous contributions elsewhere, Christensen said Wednesday, calling from Puerto Rico while waiting for a plane.
Alexander Hamilton, born on Nevis but raised on St. Croix, went off to serve as the first secretary of the treasury. He gets lots of recognition, but there are many more, Christensen said.
Ashley L. Totten helped to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union. J. Raymond Jones was a political leader in New York. Casper Holstein was a philanthropist. Edward Wilmot Blyden was an important political leader in Liberia.
"And that doesn't even begin to mention the contributions people made in the Virgin Islands," Christensen said.
There appears to be a vast void when it comes to the rest of the world knowing about the Virgin Islands. Christensen said she's had fellow congressmen tell her they had a great time in her district, when it turned out they went to Jamaica.
"The sad reality is that some students, and some adults, do not know where the U.S. territories are located geographically, or the important contributions they have made — not only to world history, but to U.S. history, as well," Christensen said.
The congresswoman introduced the resolution following a visit to Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas a few years ago. During the visit, the students questioned why children in the mainland knew so little about the Virgin Islands. Christensen said the students challenged her to do something about it.
The resolution prompted a visit to Christensen from 11 history teachers from various states who were visiting Washington, D.C., to attend meetings with the Office of the Historian for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Those teachers suggested that a curriculum be drafted that includes V.I. history. Christensen said she plans to explore this suggestion with the Interior Department's Insular Affairs Office.
"They might use the University of Guam and the University of the Virgin Islands to develop it," she said.
Christensen also suggested that teachers' unions in the Virgin Islands spread the word to their mainland counterparts.
In addition to Christensen, also speaking in support of the resolution on the House floor Monday were Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and Rep. John P. Sarbanes of Maryland.
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