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Today Is Contract Day In The U.S. Virgin Islands Recognizing 1878 Fire Burn Revolt

CHRISTIANSTED — Today is October 1st, the start of the new fiscal year and what has been known as Contract Day in the Virgin Islands.

“Today we salute those who came before us,” St. Croix Senator Kenneth “Kenny” Gittens said. “Those who set the example of standing up for fair treatment and better wages. Today I ask you to join me as I honor the spirits of our ancestors like Queen Mary and the Fire burn Queens. They may have been scared, but they were not afraid to risk it all as they took a stance against their oppressors to demand fair treatment. Happy Contract Day Virgin Islands.”

Today Is Contract Day In The U.S. Virgin Islands Recognizing 1878 Fire Burn Revolt
V.I. Department of Education graphic

Governor Albert Bryan released this statement recognizing the 1878 labor revolt on St. Croix known as Fireburn:

“More than 140 years ago, the slaves on St. Croix began the battle for their freedom when they rose up and demanded justice from the plantation owners. Their freedom was short-lived because of the contracts they were forced to sign, but those first demands began the journey to fair labor practices and brought the Territory to the active economy and worker’s rights that we enjoy today. As the Bryan-Roach Administration continues its march toward a more robust workforce and a better quality of life for all residents in our community, let us not forget where it started and how far as a people and as Virgin Islanders we have come.”

By John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.