Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from the Danish National Archives that were digitized during 2013-2016 and first made available to the public on March 1, 2017 and being shared in commemoration of D. Hamilton Jackson Day, observed Nov. 1 in the Virgin Islands. The holiday, also known as Liberty Day and Bull and Bread Day, marks the first issue of Hamilton’s newspaper, “The Herald,” following a trip to Denmark to advocate for the freedom of the press. In celebration, a bull was slaughtered and roast beef and bread were served to the masses in Grove Place, St. Croix, where copies of the newspaper were posted. The tradition of serving bull and bread still holds today.
Judge, labor leader, newspaper publisher
David Hamilton Jackson was an enterprising pioneer fighting for better conditions for workers in the West Indies. He founded a trade union and the first independent newspaper in the territory, and had considerable influence. During his lifetime he served as a teacher, judge, labor leader, councilman, journalist and newspaper publisher.
Jackson was born Sept. 28, 1884 at East Hill Country School to Eliza Hamilton McIntosh and Wilford Jackson. They were both teachers at the school. Like both his parents, Jackson was baptized in the Moravian Church.
His mother Eliza
Eliza was born on Oct. 7 [no year listed] as the daughter of Maria and James Hamilton McIntosh. Eliza was a teacher, but both as a young woman and after Wilford’s death in 1898 she also worked as a seamstress.
Maternal grandparents Maria and James
Eliza’s father, James, was also a teacher. He worked in the public school in Friedensfeld, and the family lived at Estate Little Mount Pleasant. Later he was a teacher at the schools at La Vallee and Peter’s Rest on St. Croix. When they were young, on March 3, 1841, Maria and James had come to St. Croix from the nearby island of Antigua as James had got a job at the rural schools on the Danish island. They had six children.
His father Wilford
Wilford was born on April 19, 1845, as the son of two slaves, Beata and Peter Jackson, on the plantation of Castle Coakley. As an adult, he was first an inspector at the mission station of Friedensthal and later a teacher. He was employed as a teacher at East Hill Country School in 1882 and the following year at the Free School in Christiansted, where he taught until his death following some months of illness.
Paternal grandparents Beata and Peter
When Wilford was born, his parents, who were in their early 20s, were slaves. Peter was a carpenter and Beata was a field worker on the plantation. After the abolition of slavery in 1848, according to the sources Beata was “a first-class worker.” The couple moved to a house in the western outskirts of Christiansted in 1870, and Beata worked as a saleswoman. In 1890, Peter was a widower and lived on the Richmond plantation. He died in 1892.
Jackson also became a teacher
With a family background dominated by teachers, it is no surprise that David Hamilton Jackson also became a teacher. He began his teaching career at East Hill Country School as early as 16 years of age, and later taught in Frederiksted.
The Herald newspaper
Jackson was one of the pioneers in the struggle for better working conditions in the Danish colony in the West Indies. One of his most important initiatives was the newspaper The Herald, which he created in 1915. The newspaper was the voice of the workers’ struggle and published sharp criticism of the situation in the islands.
In January 1915, Jackson began writing letters to the editor of the Westend News criticizing the poor conditions at the hospital at Peter’s Farm. This gradually developed into harsh criticism of conditions on St. Croix and especially of the working class.
‘A paper for the people’
The newspaper proclaimed that it would be “a paper for the people” and that “the people shall rule and not be ruled by a few selected bosses.”
Jackson was both publisher and editor, and the newspaper had its office at 1B Kongens Gade in Christiansted. The newspaper had three agents: Charles Christopher Reubel in Christiansted, shopkeeper Theobald Brow in Frederiksted and orchestra leader Alton A. Adams on St. Thomas.
Demanded sweeping reforms
Jackson’s closest daily co-worker and secretary was Ralph Bough, and co-editor Ralph de Chabert wrote most articles in the newspaper together with Jackson. They criticized conditions in the colony, particularly on St. Croix, and demanded sweeping economic, social and political reforms.
Health, working conditions and literature
The newspaper also contained much general information, for example on health and on American trade unions and working conditions, and lists of useful literature was a recurring feature. The Herald was politically close to the social democratic movement, and the magazine’s motto was: Liberty — Equality — Fraternity. The newspaper was published until 1925. At that time, Jackson was a member of the Colonial Council of St. Croix and had helped to create the Labour Union.
The St. Croix Labour Union
Jackson took part in the reform movement from a very young age, and he was the obvious candidate for the position as president of the Labour Union, which he started in 1915 together with such figures as Theobald Brow, Charles Reubel and Ralph de Chabert.
The primary objective was to mobilize the many farm workers on the island in order to raise wages and improve working conditions and the Labour Union quickly gained wide support. At the beginning of 1916, it called a well-organized general strike among the workers and important results were gained after one month of action. They entered an agreement with the Planters’ Society, and the daily wages for a worker rose from a maximum of 25 cents to a minimum of 35 cents.
To learn more about Jackon’s legacy, visit www.virgin-islands-history.org.