David Hamilton Jackson in Denmark 1915

The abolition of slavery in the Danish colony in the West Indies provided the population with formal freedom, but it made very little difference to their wretched conditions. One of the most important promoters of reform, David Hamilton Jackson, visited Denmark in 1915 to demand better conditions. He met with understanding from many people but received only non-binding undertakings from the authorities.


Drawing of David Hamilton Jackson in the Danish Parliament.
Drawing of David Hamilton Jackson in the Danish Parliament (in Soc-Dem 1 June 1915).


On 15 April 1915 David Hamilton Jackson travelled from St. Croix to Denmark. During his three months in the country, he met politicians, the king and the press, and he spoke at public meetings.

Demands for better living conditions

As a representative of the working population of the West Indies, David Hamilton Jackson demanded an improvement of living conditions in the colonies. His demands included the creation of smallholdings, freedom of expression, better housing conditions, an open legal system, an opportunity for further training in Denmark and suffrage for all men over 25 – and that the governor, L. C. Helweg-Larsen, be replaced.

Meeting with minister for finance and an audience with the king

He met with finance minister Edvard Brandes already the day after his arrival, as the colony in the West Indies belonged to Brandes’ area. A week later, on 21 May 1915, David Hamilton Jackson delivered a comprehensive memorandum to the minister. Jackson also wrote a letter to King Christian X, who granted him an audience on 7 June 1915. 

Well-received by the press

In general, the Danish press wrote about David Hamilton Jackson in positive and favourable terms, in particular Social-Demokraten and Politiken. There was understanding of the need for reforms in the neglected colony almost everywhere.

Public meetings

David Hamilton Jackson spoke at a handful of public meetings in and outside of Copenhagen. On 2 June 1915 he spoke about ”The social tasks ahead in the Danish West Indies”. It was announced that ”this is the first time a negro has appeared as a speaker at an open-air meeting in this country. Therefore, an enormous number of people will be sure to come”. The meetings attracted a great number of listeners.

Only non-binding commitments

David Hamilton Jackson’s trip to Denmark resulted in him receiving permission to publish a newspaper. Other than that, he only received vague, non-binding promises of reforms from the Danish politicians.

A hero’s welcome at home

Jackson left Copenhagen on 22 July 1915 and sailed to New York, where he spent three weeks and  – like in Denmark – collected money for a printing press and general support for the work of agitation in the colony. On 12 September 1915, David Hamilton Jackson returned home to St. Croix, where he was given a hero’s welcome.

Photo of David Hamilton Jackson on the rostrum at Grønttorvet in Copenhagen.
David Hamilton Jackson speaks at a public meeting in Copenhagen in 1915. (The Danish Workers’ Library and Archives).