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HomeCommentaryOp-edPaying Tribute to David Hamilton Jackson

Paying Tribute to David Hamilton Jackson

The 17th elected Virgin Islands Board of Education is honored to celebrate the lives of heroes and heroines who moved heaven and earth to make our lives decent, just, and prosperous. This November 1st we celebrate the contributions of David Hamilton Jackson. Yes, officially we speak about his extraordinary efforts to meet King Christian to lobby for greater political freedoms. The trip may appear odd, but it would be equivalent to a local community leader travelling to the White House to request the presidential vote for all Virgin Islanders from President Barack Obama. No one had done this. And, to reflect on the courage and determination it took young David Hamilton Jackson who was at best a Danish subject of African descent to travel to a Danish monarch 5,000 miles away, we must say D. Hamilton Jackson had uncommon courage and determination.
For a moment, we must ask ourselves why would this young man make this odyssey? The living conditions of the Danish West Indies had collapsed during World War I. The Colonial Law of 1906 prevented 90% of the people from having any civil, social, and political rights. Existing Danish laws prevented freedom of speech and assembly. In order for the majority of the people to tackle their problems, they needed organization, education, and mobilization. Jackson understood these needs and with his unique abilities of organizing, educating, and public speaking, he worked to break the inertia of the era. As is required by progressive people, Jackson rose to the occasion and not only won the legal authority to publish a paper but to have freedom of assembly.
Indeed, he published the first edition of The Herald on November 1, 1915. It was the voice of progress and the disseminator of new ideas. It allowed information from within the Danish West Indies (and soon after US Virgin Islands) and throughout the world. It was a link to the larger Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League of Marcus Garvey. It was sold in St Croix, but even more, special people went throughout the estates to read it for those who could not read. It was used to inspire and mobilize the workers into becoming deeply involved in their own liberation. The Herald was an integral part of building the St. Croix Labor Union.
This Labor Union was among the first modern unions of the Caribbean. It was successful in organizing a major strike and other actions against the planters’ class in 1916. At its height there were 6,000 members. The Union was able to mobilize the masses and thus be the authentic voice of the people. Jackson was not alone in leading this union, but was the most influential. We must add that during the first 19 years of the US territorial phase, the Virgin Islands was still governed by the Danish Colonial Law of 1906. At roughly the same time, the US Navy governed from 1917 to 1931. Like other heroes of the era, Jackson fought to end Naval rule and replace it with a Civilian government that allowed the entire population to be enfranchised. This mission occurred when many great fighters for justice in the US Mainland were suffering setbacks due to Jim Crow Laws. In other words, Jackson was able to successfully campaign for two major reforms simultaneously.
Jackson was highly regarded and President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected him to sit on the Board of Directors of the Virgin Islands Company which employed many workers during the Great Depression. He won the right to represent the People in both the Colonial Council and Municipal Council. He served on the School Board in St Croix. His intellectual gifts allowed him a law degree from which he was qualified to be a Municipal Court Judge. His public service was multifaceted and an epitome of what it means to be an honorable son of the soil.
We bless him with the title “Black Moses” for the totality of his contributions at a time that our ancestors can only call the worst of times. We, the 17th Elected Virgin Islands Board of Education, will honor in word and deed. We will seek to advance new paths of intellectual development, technical training, and personal development for our People. Of course, we have prioritized our children as the most worthy recipients of our focus. This November 1st, let us rededicate ourselves to uplift our people as David Hamilton Jackson had done.
Editor’s note: Nandi Sékou Esq. is the chairman and president of the 17th Elected Virgin Islands Board of Education.
 

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