Friday Photo: Portrait of a Virgin Islands Sugar Plantation Worker
When most people think about traveling to Virgin Islands National Park, they probably conjure up images of snorkeling and relaxing on white-sand beaches. The park has more than beautiful sunning and swimming spots, however; it also contains relics from sugar plantations run for decades with slave labor. Although these workers were freed from slavery in 1859, they were not given anything but their freedom. With no resources and no compensation for their lifetimes of unpaid labor, most newly freed men and women had little choice but to take jobs with former slave owners.
This portrait was taken by a Farm Security Administration employee named Jack Delano in 1941. Delano traveled to the Virgin Islands for ten days to document the agency’s efforts to assist poor farmers, much like Dorothea Lange had in the continental United States just a few years earlier. The trip resulted in numerous portraits of sharecroppers trapped in cycles of poverty. The man pictured above was an FSA borrower in the vicinity of Frederiksted, St. Croix.
Read about about Delano’s photos on this informative blog post by John Edwin Mason. And learn more about Virgin Islands National Park by watching NPCA’s slideshow or visiting the Park Service website. The park often offers special tours of plantation sites in February as part of Black History Month.