In November 1733, a group of high ranked Akwamu men, native to Ghana and the Ivory Coast, formed a plot against soldiers on the island of St. John in the Danish West Indies, modern day United States Virgin Islands.
The events that lead to the revolt where numerous; severe living conditions in a harsh newly adopted slave code, a summer of drought and crop failure, insect plague and hurricanes. An arrival of a new class of tribal Africans who would prefer death to life as slaves, men of wealth and nobility in their homeland, planned to take control of St. John and control the islands agricultural production of sugar, cotton, indigo and more.
Inside Fortsberg, a fort on the Coral Bay plantation, the plot took shape when 14 slaves smuggled machetes hidden inside bundles of wood and proceeded to kill six of the seven Danish soldiers. The goal of this initial effort was to signal other plantations that the revolt had begun. The Akwamu men fired a cannon within the garrison and led other rebel attacks throughout the island. John Gabriel, the only surviving soldier of Fortsberg, escaped to neighboring St. Thomas with warning to Danish officials of the uprising.
On April 23, 1734, several hundred French and Swiss soldiers from Martinique arrived and eventually ended the rebellion taking control back from the rebels.
More than a century after the insurrection, on July 3, 1848, slaves of neighboring St. Croix held a peaceful, mass demonstration. Emancipation was declared throughout the Danish West Indies.
The 1733 St. John Insurrection is one of the earliest and among the most famous acts of slave rebellion of the era.
Today, two boys sit at the foot of the conch blower in Cruz Bay Plaza, St. John, a monument in commemoration of the Akwamu men who fought for their freedom centuries ago.