Wayne A. G. James
P.O. Box 928
Frederiksted, St. Croix
U.S. Virgin Islands 00841
April 10, 2017
The Honorable Lars Løekke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark
The Office of the Prime Minister
Prins Jørgens Gård 11
1218 Copenhagen K
Dear Prime Minister Løekke Rasmussen:
I hereby make this formal appeal to the people of Denmark for the granting of automatic Danish citizenship to Virgin Islanders officially residing in the Virgin Islands of the United States who can, with documentation, trace their ancestry in the islands to the Danish era (1671-1917).
For 246 years, Virgin Islanders contributed to the growth of the Danish economy and to Danish culture, so much so that in the 19th century, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, was the second-largest city in the Kingdom of Denmark, and Christiansted, St. Croix, ranked within the top ten; and the coveted mahogany furniture of the Danish West Indies is today considered one of the noblest stylistic expressions in the decorative arts.
Yet despite the islanders’ unique contribution to Denmark, first as enslaved people (1671-1848), then as colonial subjects (1848-1917), Virgin Islanders were never—as evidenced by the plain language of the Cession of the Danish West Indies, the treaty transferring the islands from Denmark to the United States of America, dated August 4, 1916, with the exchange of ratifications taking place on January 17, 1917—afforded the honor of Danish citizenship.
This request for automatic Danish citizenship should in no way be construed as some attempt to remedy past wrongs. To the contrary, this request is to remedy a present, ongoing wrong. The fact is that despite the passage of a century since that fateful day of March 31, 1917, many Virgin Islanders still feel part-Danish – on account of the Danish blood that flows in their veins; the Danish surnames carried in the mouths; the Danish architecture which punctuates the islands; the Danish-inspired food which comprises a portion of the islands’ cuisine; the Danish names of the islands’ historic towns and the streets therein; and, amongst other things, the ubiquity of Danish flags dancing in the islands’ breezes, sometimes to the envy of the American ensign. As such, there is an ever-present Danish-American duality in the islands: people feel at once American and Danish, in equal measure.
But Danish citizenship remains elusive, much to the unspoken frustration of many islanders. The written, recorded history of the Virgin Islands begins, principally, with Danish colonialism in the late 17th century. And Virgin Islands schoolchildren are likely to be more well-read in the history of the Danish West Indies than in American History. The name Peter von Scholten is as emblazoned on the memories of Virgin Islanders as is the name of George Washington. Denmark, therefore, needs to come to terms with the fact that it abandoned its adopted Virgin Islanders 100 years ago, and that many Virgin Islanders have patiently awaited the return of prodigal Denmark to welcome her ever-loyal, exotic sons and daughters into the bosom of the Danish kingdom.
Virgin Islanders are Americans and, as such, do not have need for anything that they cannot obtain first and foremost on American soil. Many Virgin Islanders, however, want the option to become dual citizens of mother Denmark and father America. For many Virgin Islanders, that is their enduring birthright.
Denmark is internationally regarded as having some of the world’s most stringent citizenship requirements. In the case of Virgin Islanders, however, those requirements should be waived, for we have far exceeded those requirements for 346 years.
I look forward to your guiding the Danish people towards the right side of history on this long-overlooked matter.
Wayne A.G. James
Former Senator of the United States Virgin Islands
Former Senate Liaison to the White House