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Fireburn: the Documentary is a powerful short film 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.

In 1848, the current day U.S. 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.

This documentary examines the labor revolt as well as the women who were called “Queens” due to their leadership. Historians, cultural ambassadors, and educators are featured as they look at the folklore, art, and history surrounding the Fireburn.

Fireburn is a story that must be told because not only is it Virgin Islands’ history, but it's also African Diaspora history, Danish history, U.S. history, and Caribbean history. As such, it is world history! Yet, the Fireburn is little known outside the Virgin Islands.

This screening is co-sponsored by the DC Labor FilmFest (Washington, D.C.), the Rochester Labor Film Series (NY), the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre (VT), Reel Work Labor Film Festival (CA), and the Labor Heritage Foundation (D.C.) as part of the Global Labor FilmFest Network (GLFF) 2023 Online Screening Series.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    21 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    Virgin Islands, U.S.
  • Director
    Joel Fendelman
  • Screenwriter
    Angela Golden Bryan
  • Executive Producer
    Angela Golden Bryan