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Caribbean Genealogy Library Brings History VI to Life with Website for Classrooms

David Hamilton Jackson, a teacher, newspaper owner and editor and Holy Cross judge who fought for workers’ rights, is pictured in 1915 giving a speech in Denmark. The photo is an example of a primary source used by students to better understand the story. (Image courtesy of the Royal Danish Library)

The Caribbean Genealogy Library has opened a window to history for U.S. Virgin Island students of all ages with the launch this week of the TeachVIHistory.com website.

The website was developed to help educators teach the history of the U.S. Virgin Islands and to encourage the use of digitized primary sources in the classroom, according to a press release announcing the launch.

“A primary source is a first-hand account of an event or subject. It is something created by people who were present at the time of the history you want to study. A primary source has not been altered by interpretation,” the statement explained.

Major sources included in the project include artifacts such as a stone ax and a basket from St. John’s Market. There are historical maps of St. Thomas and St. Croix. Posters advertising a meeting on the sale of the Danish West Indies to be used to teach the transfer of the islands from Denmark to the United States in 1917, and a political campaign poster by Lorraine Berry for research on elections and voting, according to the press release .

There are activities built around old photographs of street scenes in Christiansted, horse-drawn wagons, children playing marbles in Frenchtown and David Hamilton Jackson addressing a crowd in Copenhagen. Works by Camille Pissarro, public monuments and poetry written in dialect by JP Gimenez are also included.

Documents are the largest type of primary source used on the website, and include activities using the Emancipation Proclamation, a Will Emancipation, letters about the 1733 St. John’s Slave Revolt, parish records, the identity card of E. Benjamin Oliver, the Journal Herald, census records and judgment of Edith Williams, Anna M. Vessup and Eulalie Stevens in their fight against the St. Thomas Election Commissions for the right to vote, according to the release.

The teaching materials offered on TeachVIHistory.com are called activities. Each activity includes primary sources, a brief history, suggested teaching instructions, an analysis worksheet and discussion points, the statement said. Some activities include extension projects. Forty-two activities are presented on the website, including 10 for primary, 10 for higher education, 10 for middle school and 12 for secondary.

The digitized primary sources included on this website are from the collections of various institutions, including Rigsarkivet (Danish National Archives), DET KGL Bibliotek (Royal Danish Library), Danish National Museum, Danish Maritime Museum, Library of Congress, US National Archives and Records Administration, Bethlehem Moravian Archives, and the University of the Virgin Islands through the Caribbean Digital Library, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Caribbean Genealogy Library, and more.

“In the past, this material was only widely accessible by visiting an off-island library or archive. As a result, it has only been seen and used by professional and dedicated researchers with the means, determination and research skills to travel and visit the institutions in person,” the statement said. “With the digitization efforts of the past decade, in particular the Danish National Archives’ massive digitization project of material from the Danish West Indies published in 2017, many primary sources are available online. Using the material still requires determination and research skills, but accessibility is much easier than it has ever been.

The goal of the TeachVIHistory project is to provide improved access to primary sources for teachers and students, to help educators find primary sources on the U.S. Virgin Islands, and to encourage the use of primary sources in the classroom, says the press release. .

Another long-term goal of the project is to encourage and inspire a younger generation of historians.

“Asking students to explore primary sources turns them into historians – it gives them an active role in analyzing history, rather than passively receiving information from a teacher or a book. A historical letter or an old photograph captures the attention and engages a young student. Examining multiple related documents helps students learn and wonder where historical information comes from and how things fit together to tell a story,” says the press release.

“The Caribbean Genealogy Library hopes teachers will enjoy the website throughout the school year, but especially this month since its Virgin Islands History Month!” the statement said.

The website can be viewed at: www.TeachVIHistory.com.

TeachVIHistory.com is a product of the Caribbean Genealogy Library. Its mission is to identify, preserve, and provide access to information resources on Caribbean genealogy, history, and cultural heritage for the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean, and to promote and encourage their use for family history documentation, education, and scholarship. The CGL is a research library. It’s at Al Cohens Plaza, St. Thomas. For more information about the library, visit www.cgl.vi, or email [email protected]

TeachVIHistory.com was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: CARES Act Emergency Relief Grants for Humanities, through the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.

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