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David Hamilton Jackson Day

Hamilton Jackson
Hamilton Jackson

November 1st is a local holiday in the U.S. Virgin Islands, David Hamilton Jackson Day.

David Hamilton Jackson was born on September 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.

In late 1915 he 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’. Amongst the people however, his commitment against strict labor laws that confined free people to work for a few land owners in poor conditions immortalized him as the “Black Moses”. The results of his efforts were improved wages and labor laws beneficial to all workers.

On the trip to Denmark, Jackson also petitioned for 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. In the latter post traveling 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. He was the first Chairman of the St. Croix School Board. In private law practice he provided legal services, often without charge, to his people.

David Hamilton Jackson died on May 30, 1946. He had served St. Croix people as an educator, an editor, a labor leader, lawyer and legislator. In commemoration of his contributions November 1st was designated David Hamilton Jackson Day, also known as Liberty Day. The holiday is celebrated largely on St. Croix with music, food and speeches; sometimes reenactments and a short parade.

Note: Did you know? Liberty Day is also known as “Bull and Bread Day”. Beef (bull) and bread is traditionally served at the annual celebration of this holiday on St. Croix.

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