In 1917 Denmark sold its West Indian colonies with their inhabitants to the United States of America for twenty-five million dollars in gold in accordance with the terms of this Treaty signed by both parties. By that transaction, the United States enhanced its military and economic hegemony within the Caribbean region, while Denmark rid itself of an economic liability and a failed, and increasingly troublesome, social order. The people of the newly created Virgin Islands of the United States were given no official say in the matter. The transfer ceremony took place on March 31, 1917.
Primary Sources in this Activity
Suggested Teaching Instructions
Analyze the Primary Source
You may load the Analyze a Written Document worksheet on the smart board or on computers so that you can lead students through answering the questions, print the worksheet and distribute to your students, or adapt the questions from the worksheet to create your own. Primary Source Analysis Worksheets
Have students complete the analyze worksheet individually, in small groups, or as a class. Help students as needed to complete the worksheets. Review their answers and the observations as a class.
Which article in the Treaty of Acquisition 1917 states that Denmark will cede the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John to the United States? (Define cede as needed.) How much did the islands cost?
Article 6 discusses what will happen to the residents. Explain this in your own words. Are the people able to remain Danish citizens? If so, how? Is it clear which people they are referring to, existing Danish citizens, or all island residents?
Digging Deeper: What was happening in the world at the time of the sale? Why would the United States want the Danish West Indies? Do you think it was fair for the islands to be sold without thorough input of its citizens? Why or why not?