Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: Big-business interests killed homesteading
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Title: Big-business interests killed homesteading
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: March 20, 1998
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Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00200
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
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8 The Dly News. Friday. March 20. 19


Environment


Big-business interests killed homesteading


Who is to blame for the failure
of the homestead program on St.
Croix?
This fourth column focuses on
the legacies of homesteaders, the
powerful island sugar corporation
and those in Washington who
looked out for their political
careers instead of the people on St.
Croix,
In the 1930s. Herbert D.
Brown's visionary plan to rehabil-
itate the St. Croix economy was




bailed widely by black Virgin
Islanders as the beginning of thear
social and economic redemption.
But the Pearson administration
that governed the islands during.
this period was far less enthusias-
tic about the Brown homestead
plan. Gov. Pearson was influenced
by two big sugar corporations on
the island to maintain the econom-
ic system the people of the Virgin
Islands particularly on St.
Croix found themselves living
under.
I strongly believe a "people
without knowledge of their past
history and original culture are
1kh a tree without roots."
I am sure the people of St.
Croix. who suffered economic


deprivations in the 1930s and
1950s, learned from their great-
grandparents about the hardships
of slavery. Nonetheless, the Virgin Davis
Islands Company replaced the
homesteading as the cornerstone
to rehabilitate the St. Croix econo-
my.
Like Brown's in the 1930s and
the 1940s, Gov. Lawrence Cramer the homestead scheme established
urged the federal government to by President Hoover and aban-
shift its focus from VICO back to doned by the Roosevelt New Deal.
homesteading, which he believed era, the Parm Security Admialstra-
promised a better future for the tion promoted tbhe bhomctead pro
people of St. Croix. The sugar
company on SL Croix was costing
the federal government millions of ___
dollars. The company did little to
promote economic or social reha- Intead of self-rellaice In
bilitaton for the people. agriculture, we are
Cramer's pleas to shift the a" l e w
emphasis from VICO to home-* controlled today by a few
stealing fell on deaf eans in Wash- people who control the
ington. VICO's supporters, led by
Harold Ickes. were too powerful. Island's economy.
They supported the concepts of
making St Croix a welfare island.
They labeled Cramer as a trouble-
maker and successfully got him gram of self-sustaining family
onut of oic. farms
Washington went along with Under FSA's direction, the
this scheme. In 1941, President homesteaders got back on their
Roosevelt authored the transfer feet. In many ways, the program
of the homestead program to the was a success. Between 1930 and
Department of Alioultam, which 1950, the number of non-white
came under the Parm Security farm owners inceased fhom 56 to
Adminisation. 318, and their ahase of tom land
Confronted with he failure of and farm relies doubled.


But while the program benclit-
ed some black and Hispanic fami'
lies, the homestead program ulti-
mately failed,
It did not achieve the wide
socio-cconomic transformation
intended by Brown and Cramer's
homestead plan. The sugar indus-
try, controlled by a single corpora-
tion, VICO, still dominated the
economy. Less than one percent of
all non-white families owned land.
Nor had St. Croix became more
self-sufficient in food production.
Since the 1930s, food imports
have Increased, as well u federal
subsidies. In my opinion, we have
become nothing but a welfare
island that get crumbs from Wash.
ingtoe's table.
However, it was not totally our
fault the New Deal liberals In
Washington never took the home.
stead program seriously. They pre-
fcncd the concept of welfare state
capitalism embodied by the Virgin
Islands Company to the Jeffersoni-
an ideal of a self-reliant communi-
ty of independent famers.
In 1945, Congress liquidated
the program on St. Croix. The pro-
gram was passed to the municipal
government in 1946. The Farm
Secasity Administration continued
their assistance to tlha farmers until
1947. Thu same year, thbe Frmers
Home Administration-Iook 6vet
the program.


For better or for worse, we
have strayed far from'111 home-
stead ideal on St. Croix.
instead of self-reliance in agri-
culture, we are controlled today by
a few people who control the
island's economy.
We had been let down by
Washington, local politicians and
ourselves.
Failure of an economic system
was nothing new to the people of
St. Croix. especially natives.
It was just 82 years after the
emancipation of slavery In the
Virgin islands whesAbe home-
stead program started.
Believe me, the more things
change, the more things remain
the same.
Were Queen Mary and others
In the 1878 Fireburan'rong to
6iurn down the town?
In the 1930s and 1950s, we did
nothing except for a few of
those who were considered trou-
blemakers.
Next week will be the final col-
umn on the homestead on St.

Olasee Davis, wh has a mas-
ter of science degre-d.ls range
masagement anid Jorsssy ecology,
Is arSt. Croirecoloist, activist
iand writer.




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