As a class, with the teacher’s help, examine the front cover of the St. Croix Avis from July 3rd, 1848. Have students take note of the title of the newspaper, and the date. Next have them look at the headlines? Are there advertisements? Ask students if this is what they expected the front page of the newspaper on Emancipation Day to look like? Explain answer. What does the Emancipation announcement on the front page say?
Incidentally, on the same page there is a runaway slave notice. What do you suppose would happen to that runaway enslaved person after the general Emancipation?
Next, load the July 17th, 1848, St. Croix Avis Newspaper. The report you are looking at is on page three (3) and page four (4). It describes the rebellion. Ask for volunteers from the class to read it out loud. Information about the event is given through a letter to the editor. What is the perspective? Could there be bias?
Introduce the three activities listed below. Spend some classroom time explaining the assignments and having a classroom discussion about “Who ended slavery in the Danish West Indies”? Explain to students that von Scholten is usually credited with ‘freeing the slaves’. But what about the enslaved that rebelled? Were they agents of change? Did they free themselves through their rebellion? Do they deserve credit and recognition too? The teacher can begin the discussion in order to help students brainstorm as a class, share their ideas and develop their position. Students will then continue their research independently and write an essay to share their position.
Three Part Activity:
1. What were legal steps that Denmark took to end the transatlantic slave trade, and proposed taking to bring about a gradual end to slavery in the Danish West Indies? The teacher can assist students in researching the question and creating a timeline starting with what occurred in 1792 to 1848. This information can be sourced through books and online resources.
2. Who ended slavery in the Danish West Indies? Students will construct an argument answering the question “Who ended slavery in the Danish West Indies?” and explain their view in an essay. Historical evidence should be incorporated into their arguments, and they should illustrate an understanding of the steps that led to general emancipation and the end of slavery in the Danish West Indies.
Note to teacher: It is important for the teacher to explain to students, that it isn’t the facts of what happened that are being questioned. There was a slave rebellion on St. Croix, and von Scholten issued a verbal emancipation followed by a written emancipation – these facts are accepted. It is the interpretation of those facts that students are being asked to consider, more specifically who history credits.
3. Have a teacher led discussion explaining the implications of the debate over who ended slavery. Why does it matter whether history credits and recognizes von Scholten for freeing the slaves? What are the implications? Why does it matter that history credit and recognize the rebelling slaves for their actions which prompted von Scholten to give general emancipation? What are the implications? Does it matter either way?
Allow enough time for students to share their views, thoughts and questions on the topic. They can also share what they thought of the exercise, and any difficulties they had with completing it.