Fireburn the Documentary

Vigilantes, heroines, or criminals? Find out what really happened during the bloody labor revolt of 1878 on the island of Saint Croix.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
21 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


Fireburn the Documentary is a powerful short documentary about the human rights violations that occurred on the island of St. Croix during the post-emancipation event known as the Fireburn. Find out what sparked this fiery labor revolt and learn how it changed the lives of Virgin Islanders.

Featured review

Short films are making progressive waves this past year, especially one project by artist and filmmaker Angela Golden Bryan.
Times Square Chronicles
Times Square Chronicles


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 such, it is World history! Yet, the Fireburn is little known outside the Virgin Islands.


The documentary helps bring the story to a global stage and new audiences.
The Fox Magazine
The Fox Magazine
...a powerful short film on the human rights violations that occurred during the Fireburn - the bloody labor revolt of 1878, that occurred on the island of Saint Croix.
The Virgin Islands Consortium
The Virgin Islands Consortium
The documentary explores the inhumane work and living conditions that existed prior to the revolt and takes an in depth look at the women who were called Queens due to their leadership.
The Virgin Islands Daily News
The Virgin Islands Daily News
…a short documentary that pays homage to an event significant to Virgin Islands' history.
The St. Thomas Source
The St. Thomas Source

Awards and Screenings

Best Documentary – Chicago Indie Film Awards , 2021
Best Producer – Luminous Frames Film Festival , 2021
Audience Choice Award – International Black and Diversity Film Festival , 2021

Director Commentary

“I grew up on the island of St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands, hearing stories about Queen Mary and the Fireburn. It was a part of our island's history and there were often commemorative programs dedicated to this pivotal event in the island's history.

Fast forward many years, I’m no longer living in the Caribbean and I’m a member of an international speaking club called “Toastmasters.” I needed a story for one of the assignments and the story needed to be true and it needed to take the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions. That weekend I went to a party and sat at the dining room table with two of my aunts. They reminisced and told stories, and before you know it, I’m listening to this fascinating story about my great-great-great-grandmother, Moriah, who was a teenager at the Fireburn. I had never heard this story before and I was hooked. Moriah’s job was to take care of her younger brother and sister while her parents fought in the Fireburn. She covered herself and her siblings with garbage, leaves and dirt, while they hid in a ditch and listened to the horrific battle.

When I learned that my ancestors were participants in the Fireburn the event took on a new meaning for me. It was now family history. I shared the story at my speakers’ club and won an award. The word spread quickly and other clubs asked me to share the story. I soon realized that the story of the Fireburn is hugely relatable because it is a tale of our humanity. It is a tale that shows us what happens when our basic human rights are suppressed. One does not have to be of any particular race, sex or religious affiliation to understand what fair treatment looks like.

Although the Fireburn occurred on a small island in the Caribbean, in the 1800’s, it is still relevant today. It is my hope that his documentary will serve as a tool for cultural preservation for the people of the Virgin Islands, and that it educates those unfamiliar with our history.


Executive Producer/Producer

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • Resources for Educators

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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