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Bull and Bread Celebrated on Friday

Grove Place on St. Croix will once again host the annual Bull and Bread Day celebration to honor the life of labor leader, journalist and newspaper owner David Hamilton Jackson, Government House announced Thursday. Festivities begin around 1 p.m.

The day is a legal holiday in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and public schools, local government offices, V.I. Superior Court and the Legislature will be closed, according to Government House. It is also a banking holiday. Delegate Donna Christensen’s office will close at noon, Friday in observance of the holiday.

"We will gather Friday with members of the community and the Grove Place Action Committee to reflect on the life of a giant, a great leader, a man of the people – D. Hamilton Jackson – who was also a noted educator, journalist, judge, legislator and union leader,” Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in a statement announcing the holiday plans.

DeJongh said Jackson was a legendary Virgin Islander and it is fitting that each year on Nov. 1 that we pause to commemorate his life and his contributions to the development of the Virgin Islands.

Friday’s program will include speeches and presentations followed by the serving of roast beef and pumpernickel bread – the traditional staples at the “Bull and Bread Day” celebration on St. Croix.

The celebration is a local holiday in the Virgin Islands, also called Liberty Day and D. Hamilton Jackson Day.

Jackson was born Sept. 28, 1884, on St. Croix in what was then the Danish West Indies. His education began at East Hill School where both his parents were teachers. He went on to earn a law degree.

From a young age Jackson is said to have been interested in the issues of the day, taking a stand and defending his positions with courage and conviction. Jackson played a prominent role in the social, economic and political develop of the islands.

In 1915, with the help of Ralph Bough, Jackson organized the first labor union on St. Croix, the St. Croix Labor Union. He served as president of the organization. The union allowed laborers to use organized protests and discussions for seeking better work conditions and higher wages in place of the physical uprisings of the past.

Later that year Jackson was selected by the union to travel to Denmark and intercede on their behalf by informing King Christian X and the Danish Parliament of the living and work conditions of the people and to advocate for higher wages and health benefits. The business sector was irritated and considered Jackson a “trouble maker.”

Among the workers and residents of St. Croix, however, his commitment against strict labor laws that confined free people to work for a few landowners in poor conditions immortalized him as the “Black Moses,” according to Government House. The results of his efforts were improved wages and labor laws beneficial to all workers.

On the trip to Denmark, Jackson also petitioned for a free press. Since 1779 the Danish government had strict censorship on all publications in the islands. There was an ordinance authorizing only government-subsidized newspapers. Jackson was successful in having the censorship removed. Shortly after returning home he published the first free press publication on St. Croix, The Herald. Jackson served as the editor of the newspaper and used it as a voice for the people to expose corruption and to educate the laboring class.

In the early 1900’s Denmark was considering selling the islands to the United States. Jackson, who was frustrated with the empty promises for reform that the Danish government had always given, led the way to gaining support for the transfer of the islands. The Danish West Indies was transferred to the United States in 1917.

Jackson served on the Colonial Council of St. Croix from 1923-1926 and on the Municipal Council of St. Croix in 1941 and 1946. During these terms he often served as a spokesperson, and in the latter post traveled to the nation’s capital to speak on pertinent issues affecting the new U.S. territory, like citizenship for the islands’ people.

He served as a judge of the Municipal Court of St. Croix from 1931-1941 and was privileged to have played a role in the development of the 1936 Organic Act, the body of laws that gave the territory a measure of self-government over internal affairs.

Jackson was the first chairman of the St. Croix School Board. In private law practice he provided legal services, often without charge, to islanders.

Jackson died May 30, 1946. He had served St. Croix people as an educator, an editor, a labor leader, lawyer and legislator.

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