Although the Fireburn took place in the 1800s, and on an island in the Caribbean, it is globally relevant today. The Fireburn addresses the heart of humanity and shows us what happens when people are robbed of their inalienable rights.
In 1848 the current day US Virgin Islands were Danish territory and were called the Danish West Indies (DWI). On July 3, 1848 all enslaved in the DWI were emancipated and proclaimed free by the governor of the islands. However, 30 years later, the freed workers were still suffering under the oppressive rules of the landowners and government. Inhumane treatment and poor work conditions existed for the laborers who had difficulty earning a decent living.
On October 1st, 1878, four female laborers rose up as leaders and what ensued was a bloody labor revolt. This revolution became known as the Fireburn, as almost half of the islands’ plantations and sugar cane fields were burned in the process.
The documentary examines the labor revolt, as well as the women who were called “Queens” due to their leadership. The documentary features historians, cultural ambassadors and educators as they look at the folklore, art and history surrounding the Fireburn.
The Fireburn is a story that must be told because not only is it Virgin Islands’ history, it is also African Diaspora history, Danish history, US history, and Caribbean history...as such, it is World history! Yet, the Fireburn is little known outside the Virgin Islands.