The U.S. Virgin Islands rich, diverse history stems from the first inhabitants on the islands, the Ciboneys. Soon after, the Arawaks, Caribs and peaceful Tainos established sites on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. When Christopher Columbus sailed into Salt River on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493, a fierce battle erupted between the natives and Columbus and this battle was considered to be the first insurgence in the New World. Previously called Ay Ay by the Caribs, Columbus renamed the island Santa Cruz and sailed north. There he spotted a chain of islands and proclaimed they would be called Las Once Mil Virgenes (11,000 Virgins).
During the 1600s, many countries retained possession of the islands, including Holland, France, England, Spain, Denmark and the Knights of Malta. However, it was the Danes who established the first settlement on St. Thomas in 1672, expanding to St. John in 1694. In 1733, St. Croix was added to the Danish West India Company and plantations soon sprung up all over the islands. Established as a slave-trading post in 1685, St. Thomas received more than 200,000 slaves forcibly shipped to the islands to endure the arduous work of harvesting cane, cotton and indigo. St. Thomas was established as a trade center while St. Croix and St. John maintained a plantation economy. Denmark announced the cessation of the trade in humans in 1792 but freedom was not granted to slaves until July 3, 1848. On this day, Moses “Buddhoe” Gottlieb led a revolution on St. Croix, 17 years before emancipation in the United States, which led to the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
With the discovery of the sugar beet and the freeing of slaves, the importance of agriculture dissipated in the islands. The industrial revolution eliminated the need for the islands as a shipping port that resulted in a major shift in the economic environment. It wasn’t until World War I when the United States realized the U.S. Virgin Islands strategic position and negotiated the purchase of the islands from Denmark for $25 million in gold. The sale was completed in 1917 and citizenship was granted to Virgin Islanders in 1927.
When the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1959, a large growth in tourism occurred. Today, the USVI is a thriving destination for visitors in search of an ideal vacation.