VIRGIN ISLANDS
United States Virgin Islands
United States Virgin Islands
(organized, unincorporated territory of
the United States)
Joined United Nations:  24 October 1945
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Click here
Updated 21 October 2012
CAPITAL
POPULATION
CHIEF OF STATE
SELECTION PROCESS
Charlotte Amalie
105,275 (July 2012 est.)
Barack Hussein Obama
President of the United States
since 20 January 2009
President and Vice President elected via electoral college for a
four year term; eligible for a second term.
Under the US
Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such
as the United States Virgin Islands, do not vote in
elections for US president and vice president

Next scheduled election: November 2012
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
SELECTION PROCESS
John DeJongh
Governor since 1 January 2007
Governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by
popular vote for four-year term (can serve two consecutive
terms, then must wait a full term before running again); election
last held 2 November 2010

Next scheduled election: November 2014
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
ETHNIC GROUPS
Black 76.2%, white 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5% (2000 census)
RELIGIONS
Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%
GOVERNMENT
STRUCTURE
Organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between United States Virgin Islands and the US under the
jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior
; no administrative divisions. Legal system is
modeled on US; US federal laws apply
Executive:  President and Vice President elected for four year terms, eligible for second term (not voted for by Virgin
Islands residents); Governor and Lieutenant Governor elected for four years up to two consecutive terms by Virgin
Islands citizens; election last held on 2 November 2010 (next to be held in November 2014)
Legislative: Unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: last held 2 November 2010 (next to be held in 6 November 2012)
Judicial: US District Court of the Virgin Islands (under Third Circuit jurisdiction); Superior Court of the Virgin Islands
(judges appointed by the governor for 10-year terms)
LANGUAGES
English 74.7%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 16.8%, French or French Creole 6.6%, other 1.9% (2000 census)
BRIEF HISTORY
The Virgin Islands were originally settled by the Ciboney, Carib, and Arawaks. In 1493, Christopher Columbus visited
these islands. He had been searching for a route to India and consequently he called the people he encountered Indians.
Columbus named the beautiful islands 'The Virgins' in reference to the legendary beauty of St. Ursula and her 11,000
virgins. The period after Columbus' visit was quiet as far as exploration and colonization is concerned. Explorers as late as
1587 reported evidence of Indian habitation however settlers by 1625 reported not finding Indians. It is believed that
Spanish settlers on nearby Puerto Rico raided the islands on a regular basis. Some Indians were forced to work while
others fled. Indian groups lived throughout the Caribbean, however European exploration and colonization brought
demise to the indigenous groups. They had no immunity to European diseases and were not prepared to deal with the
harsh labor they were forced into. Within several decades following colonization of the Caribbean, Indian populations had
plummeted. Today they are found on reserved lands on only a few islands. They no longer exist in what is today the
USVI. Over the next three hundred years, the islands were held by many European powers, including Spain, Britain, the
Netherlands, France, the Knights of Malta, and Denmark. The Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas in
1672, on Saint John in 1694, and purchased Saint Croix from France in 1733. The Danish West India Company first
attempted to settle St. Thomas in 1665. They successfully established a settlement on St. Thomas in 1672 consisting of
113 inhabitants. In 1685, the Danish government signed a treaty with the Dutch of Brandenburg. This treaty allowed the
Brandenburg American Company to establish a slave-trading post on St. Thomas. Early governors also approved of St.
Thomas becoming a pirates' safe haven. The governors realized an influx of pirates would benefit local merchants. While
piracy ceased to be a factor in the island's economy in the early 1800s, the slave trade continued. They expanded and
settled on St. John in 1694. The Danish had claimed St. John as early as the 1680's, however hostility from the
neighboring British on Tortola prevented the Danes from establishing a settlement. The British, in order to maintain
hospitable relations with Denmark, eventually ceased their opposition. After the Danes settled St. John plantation
agriculture developed rapidly. The Danish West Indian Company purchased St. Croix from the French in 1733 bringing
St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John together as the Danish West Indies. The islands became royal Danish colonies in
1754, their name translating to Jomfruøerne in Danish. In the Danish West Indies slaves labored mainly on sugar
plantations. Cotton, indigo and other crops were also grown. Sugar mills and plantations dotted the islands hilly
landscapes. Each islands economy prospered through sugar plantations and slave trading. While St. John and St. Croix
maintained a plantation economy, St. Thomas developed into a prosperous center of trade. Slave rebellion on St. John
and St. Croix are well documented. Legitimate trade and business on St. Thomas influenced a different society where
many more slaves were given freedom and an opportunity outside of plantation life. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor,
drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries, until the abolition of slavery by Governor Peter von
Scholten on July 3, 1848. For the remainder of the Danish time, the islands were not economically viable and significant
transfers were made from the Danish state budgets to the authorities in the islands. An attempt to sell the islands to the
United States was made early in the 20th century, but a deal proved elusive. A number of reforms in the hope of reviving
the islands' economy were attempted, but none having great success. The onset of World War I brought the reforms to a
close, and again left the islands isolated and exposed. During the submarine warfare phases of the First World War, the
United States, fearing that the islands might be seized by Germany as a submarine base, once again approached Denmark
to sell the islands to the United States. After a few months of negotiations, a selling price of $25 million was agreed. The
Danish Crown may have felt some pressure to accept the sale, thinking that the United States would seize the islands if
Denmark was invaded by Germany. However, at the same time the economics of continued possession weighed heavily
on the minds of Danish decision makers, and a bipartisan consensus in favor of selling emerged in the Danish parliament.
A subsequent referendum held in late 1916 confirmed the decision to sell by a wide margin. The deal was thus ratified and
finalized on January 17, 1917, when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. The
U.S. took possession of the islands on March 31, 1917, when the territory was renamed the Virgin Islands of the United
States. U.S. citizenship was granted to the inhabitants of the islands in 1927. While conditions improved, change came
slowly and frustrations brewed. Residents felt deceived when they were not granted American citizenship immediately
following the transfer and disappointment also existed in that the islands were run by Naval administrators and appointed
officials. The Military and the Interior Departments managed the territory until the passage of the Organic Act in 1936.
Today the USVI is a U.S. territory, run by an elected governor. The territory is under the jurisdiction of the president of
the United States of America and residents are American citizens. In the mid 1900s the Virgin Islands saw the dawn of
new times, more prosperous times. Tourist seeking the warmth, beauty and relaxation the USVI offers, vacationed in the
islands. Hotels, restaurants and shops began popping up on beachfront properties and in main towns. With the rise in
business and economy came a rise in the population as immigrants from neighboring islands flocked to the USVI to work.
Today the population of the USVI is made up of people from all over the Caribbean. The islands entered the new
millennium as one of the premiere destinations for tourist visiting the Caribbean.
Sources   Wikipedia: History of United States Virgin Islands;   VINOW History of the Virgin Islands
ECONOMIC OVERVIEW
Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of GDP and employment. The islands hosted 2.4 million
visitors in 2008. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, rum distilling, textiles, electronics,
pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. One of the world's largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The agricultural
sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are small but growing
components of the economy. The islands are vulnerable to substantial damage from storms. The government is working to
improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime,
and to protect the environment.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Virgin Islands)
POLITICAL CLIMATE
Politics of the United States Virgin Islands takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic
dependency, whereby the Governor is the head of the local government, and of a multi-party system. The United States
Virgin Islands are an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular
Affairs of the United States Department of the Interior. Executive power is exercised by the government. The judiciary is
independent of the executive and the legislature.

Virgin Islands residents are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in United States presidential election and cannot elect voting
members of Congress. However, in the U.S. House of Representatives, they are represented by a Delegate, who can
vote in congressional committees but not in the House itself. Virgin Islands residents can vote fully in all elections if they
become resident in one of the 50 U.S. states.

A federal lawsuit in the District Court of the Virgin Islands is currently pending to provide Virgin Islanders with the
fundamental right to be represented in Congress and vote for U.S. President. The case is Civil No. 3:11-cv-110, Charles
v. U.S. Federal Elections Commission. The case alleges it was racial discrimination present in an all-white and segregated
Congress of 1917 that was the impetus to deny the right to vote to a majority non-white constituency.[
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of the United States Virgin Islands
INTERNATIONAL
DISPUTES
None reported.
U.S. State Department
United Nations Human
Rights Council
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
REFUGEES AND
INTERNALLY
DISPLACED PERSONS
(IDP)
None reported.
ILLICIT DRUGS
None reported.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Reparations Movement
U. S. STATE
DEPARTMENT
HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
The U.S. State Department does not issue an annual Country Report regarding the Human Rights practices of the United
states and its territories. It does, however, assess the Human Rights condition of foreign countries as stated below:

The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago.
Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. The United States understands that the existence of human rights helps secure the peace, deter
aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises.

Because the promotion of human rights is an important national interest, the United States seeks to:

  • Hold governments accountable to their obligations under universal human rights norms and international human rights
    instruments;
  • Promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom from torture, freedom of expression, press freedom, women's
    rights, children's rights, and the protection of minorities;
  • Promote the rule of law, seek accountability, and change cultures of impunity;
  • Assist efforts to reform and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human
    Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights; and
  • Coordinate human rights activities with important allies, including the EU, and regional organizations.
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UNITED NATIONS
HUMAN RIGHTS
COUNCIL
Statement by Ms. Donna Christensen
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Virgin Islands
26 January 2010

I rise to speak as an elective representative of an offshore territory of the United States, by U.N. Definition, a non-self governing
colony.

There have been many steps taken and supported by the U.S toward greater self government and participation in our country's
governance by the US Virgin Islands and the other territories - Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the
Northern Marianas. The latter only this year for the very first time has representation in the Congress of the United States. All of us
serve in the House of Representatives.

However our participation is not equal to that of our fellow citizens in he states. We have no representatives in the Senate and while
a major advancement was made in the last Congress to allow Delegates - as we are called - to vote when the House is meeting in
committee-of-the-whole on amendments. We do not vote when the House is voting as a body on final passage of legislation.

Most importantly, even though we serve in our nation's military, we do not have the right to vote for our president.

I want to note that the people living int the territories are overwhelmingly members of racial and ethnic minorities in the US.
When Puerto Rico has attempted to seek statehood they have been subjected to a vote demanding that they adopt English as their
official language. Essentially as a condition.

It is also significant to note that the only other part of the United States that does not have full voting rights in the Congress is the
nation's capital, Washington, DC. The population of Washington DC is largely minority.

And therefore I would recommend that in addition to the very fine, significant and far reaching recommendations already included
in the working document, that in nations that still have territories or colonies, should ensure that their citizens living there have full
voting rights equal to other citizens of that country.
Click here to read more »
FREEDOM HOUSE
Today's American: How Free?
May 1, 2008

Today’s American: How Free? examines whether Americans are sacrificing essential values in the war against terror, and
scrutinizes other critical issues such as the political process, criminal justice system, racial inequality and immigration. Today’s
American: How Free? is the first time that Freedom House, best known for its annual survey of the state of freedom around the
world, has produced a book-length report on an individual country.

Political Process: Needs Repair- Full Chapter
Aided by a vigorous press, an energetic civil society, and the determination of whichever party comprises the “loyal opposition” at
each level of the system, today’s American is free to choose who holds political power and has at least as much influence on the
workings of government as citizens in any other democracy. The process through which citizens compete for political office, and
more generally for influence over government actions and the substance of public policy, is relatively transparent and accessible to
those who choose to take part.

Voting Rights for the District of Columbia
The 585,000 residents of the District of Columbia do not enjoy the same political rights as other U.S. citizens. There are also a
number of small U.S. island territories that have limited access to the federal political process, including American Samoa,Guam, ,
and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is the largest, though its citizens have consistently voted to retain the island’s current
intermediary status as a commonwealth rather than seek full statehood or independence. As U.S. territories that are not states, these
five jurisdictions fall into a constitutional lacuna that leaves their residents with many of the obligations of citizenship but without a
say in the election of full voting members of Congress. Their elected delegates have long been permitted to participate in the
deliberations of the House and to vote in House committees. In 1993 and again in 2007, Democratic majorities in the House adopted
a procedural rule that permits the five delegates to vote with the full House, but their votes count only if they have no effect on a
measure’s ultimate outcome. None of the five territories are represented in the Senate.Puerto Rico
Click here to read more »
AMNESTY
INTERNATIONAL
No Reports from Amnesty International mentioning United States Virgin Islands after exhaustive search of their
database. Please forward any information you may have regarding Amnesty International efforts on behalf of United
States Virgin Islands to the Pax Gaea World Report editor at the link below
Contact the editor »
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
No Reports from Human Rights Watch mentioning United States Virgin Islands after exhaustive search of their
database. Please forward any information you may have regarding Human Rights Watch efforts on behalf of United
States Virgin Islands to the Pax Gaea World Report editor at the link below
Contact the editor »
OFFICIAL
GOVERNMENT HUMAN
RIGHTS STATEMENT
How Many More Patriots Must Die Bearing Dreams Deferred?
July 16, 2012

 What happens to a dream deferred?

 Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore– 
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar
over– 
like a syrupy sweet?

 Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.

 Or does it explode?
 – Langston Hughes, A Dream Deferred

Over the weekend, I read the Facebook posts of friends sharing the sad news of the passing of Mr. Arnold M. Golden.  Today, I
read the article in the Source and began to consider: How many more patriots must die bearing dreams deferred?

It was interesting to see comments from Governor John deJongh.  For while the Governor praises Mr. Golden’s record in death,
he refused to honor his efforts in life.  It’s funny how many find ways to praise you when you’re gone…

Yet, how many more patriots must die bearing dreams deferred?

As my friend, former Senator Violet Anne Golden said to the Source, “He told me to continue the fight.”  How many more Virgin
Islanders must leave this life, to pass the torch to their children, never to see the promised land for themselves?  Is this not enough
to motivate us to change our situation?

In my efforts to help the Fifth Constitutional Convention, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Golden and experience – first hand –
his hopes for the Territory.  I also know he passed that on to his daughter Anne.  I am sad for her loss…for their loss…for our
loss.  May God give them strength to endure!  May God surround them with love at this time!

How many more patriots must die bearing dreams deferred?

Let us not lose all!  Rather let us give a gift to those who have fought so long!  Let us assure them, while living, that they will be
able to see the promised land – that sustainable country promised us by God!

Are we not able to realize their dreams?  Is there no way to move forward?  How can we renew that hope?  How many more
patriots must die bearing dreams deferred?
Click here to read more »
VIRGIN ISLANDS WATCH
Governor de Jongh, Military Families Mark Memorial Day
Posted by Jean Greaux on May 29, 2012 at 10:46 AM AST

“Memorial Day is not unique to any religion, or region, or tradition. It is a day that unites all Americans by reminding them of what
they share, and the common loss they have endured,” the governor said.

“By remembering fallen soldiers, and supporting all our veterans, we are reminded that the geographic, political, racial and religious
divisions that at times seem so impenetrable are petty in the context of the great sacrifices members of the Armed Forces from all
walks of life have made on our behalf,” he said.

The governor told those gathered at Veterans Park that the significance of the holiday was made painfully poignant to him in 2007,
when he presented American flags to six Virgin Islands families who had lost loved ones overseas. Meeting mothers who lost their
sons, and children who would grow up without a parent, drove home the awesome sacrifice endured by military families, and the
tremendous honor due those who gave their lives.

As the territory prepares for the centennial anniversary of Transfer Day, the governor noted that the military service of brave and
patriotic Virgin Islanders has been a major force in legitimizing the territory's status as part of the United States while winning it
greater autonomy and self-governance.

“Virgin Islanders served before we were even citizens, and thanks to those who have served we have come a very long way since
1917,” the governor said said, adding: “On this particular day we should remember who we are as a people and where we want to
go.”

The governor ended his remarks by noting that Decoration Day, the holiday that would become Memorial Day, partly originated in
1865 in South Carolina with a spontaneous outpouring of emotion from recently liberated African-American slaves.

“Freed slaves learned about a mass grave at a race course in Charleston and decided to honor more than 250 Union soldiers who
died as prisoners of war and were buried there. These people who had suffered the greatest of injustices, who only recently had
been granted the most basic of human rights, innately understood the fundamental premise of this solemn holiday: that freedom is
often secured by the sacrifice of others,” he said.
Click here to read more »
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
REPARATIONS
MOVEMENT
Featured Project
Place, Time, and Memory in the Virgin Islands
October 11, 2012 | By Federal/State Partnership Staff        

What are the stories that make and inform a community? How do the customs, traditions, and values of a specific community
inform their collective memory? These are questions the Virgin Islands Humanities Council considered with “Place, Time, and
Memory: Story Toh Tell!” This initiative, funded by a We the People grant, was launched to advance discussions on identity and
collective memory by communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In fall 2011, a two-day, multiple-part conference, Place, Time, & Memory: “Story Toh Tell!,” An Exploration of Collective
Memory and Identity, took place on the island of St. Croix. The conference was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the
1878 St. Croix Labor Revolt, which began on October 1, 1878. By employing the narrative in its various forms, the Virgin Islands
Humanities Council sought to inspire a broader articulation of place, time, and memory through thought provoking dramatic
readings, commentaries and panel discussions, and complementary presentations. Events were held at two historic buildings -- the
Government House in Christiansted and at Fort Frederik in Frediksted, both on St. Croix.

The first day started off with the presentation of the Council’s Humanist Award. This year, the Humanist Award was given
posthumously to Crucian writer and editor Marvin E. Williams for his contributions to the Virgin Islands community in the fields of
education, sports, culture, and the arts. Williams was dedicated to exposing Virgin Islands and Caribbean literature in international
circles and edited several books in this genre for free. Following the awards, a troupe of respected community actors brought
Williams’ work to life, staging Songs for Das Camella, a poetic tribute to his wife. Other readings included works by Clement A.
White, a rendition of Do Lord Remember Me by James de Jongh, and a dramatic excerpt of Kill the Rabbits, a short story from
Tiphanie Yanique’s award-winning book How to Escape from a Leper Colony. An author panel discussion followed the
performances.  

On the second day, the Council presented the Daniel L. Heftel Lecture series, featuring a panel of four authors, educators,
historians, and activists whose works are distinctly tied to power of place. Moderated by Gloria I. Joseph, professor emeritus of
Hampshire College, the panelists consisted of William W. Boyer, H. Akia Gore, Elizabeth Rezende, and Shelley Moorhead. The lively
discussions that followed included examinations of topics such as the American response to labor leader David Hamilton Jackson,
the differential treatment immigrants experienced in the Virgin Islands, the historically free black community of Christiansted, and
the Virgin Islands reparations movement. Three Council-funded documentaries exploring different sites, times, and historical
structures were shown and discussions were held with representatives of each film. The conversations and films were
complemented by demonstrations of the official music and dance of the Virgin Islands – quelbe, a form of topical folk song
frequently performed by scratch bands, and quadrille, a traditional folk dance, and tastings of Virgin Islands culinary delights.
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Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.
Vice President of the United States
since 20 January 2009
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Click flag for Country Report
Gregory R. Francis
Lieutenant Governor since 1 January 2007
TRAFFICKING IN
PERSONS
None reported.