My Masters Thesis: “Rothschild Francis’ Fight for Virgin Islanders’ Civil Rights and Self-Government in an Age of U.S. Expansion, 1917-1931”

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Whenever I share fascinating primary source documents and intriguing stories about Rothschild Francis and his fight for Virgin Islanders’ civil rights, people ask where they can read more about him. I spent about four years asking the same question, and found myself in Washington DC in the Library of Congress basement for three days with microfiche files and delicate newspaper pages from the 1920’s. I chased documents from The Schomberg Library in Harlem to the New York Public Library in Manhattan. I spent hundreds of dollars on books from sellers in the US Virgin Islands, written by amateur USVI historians. I found relevant articles in academic databases, and some primary source documents from simple Google searches.

There are very few secondary sources about Rothschild Francis and the brilliant strategies he employed to attempt to secure Constitutional rights for his people. I realized that I, actually, could do something about this.

My masters research/thesis is one of the accomplishments in my life that I am most proud of. I was teaching full-time while I took in-person classes at a university an hour away from where I lived and worked, and when I defended my thesis and walked with my graduating class, I was 39 weeks pregnant with my son. Even though it took about four years and ended up being outrageously expensive, I loved the process of taking graduate level history courses and doing targeted research.

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I take pride in being a historian. Many of my classmates went on to pursue PhDs in History in order to become professors and to continue their research. I was tempted to follow this path as well, but even more than a historian, I am an educator. I want to make impeccable historical practices and intriguing research and sources available to K-12 teachers who don’t have access to WorldCat, university archives, and professor office hours. And I want our students to become amazing historians.

I have shared a lot of my masters journey and my USVI research online. Here is a YouTube video about the process of pursing my degree. I created this lesson about Rothschild Francis, and it’s available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I even made myself a custom t-shirt with Rothschild Francis quotes on it to wear when I teach my students about him!

I have never shared my actual thesis paper before because I thought that I would need to protect my research if I ever applied for a PhD program or a Caribbean history conference. I kept meaning to make a YouTube video where I read my thesis out loud so that people could hear it, but wouldn’t have access to the text.

But what would Rothschild Francis do in this situation? He studied US History and policy voraciously and then put everything he learned into editorials in his newspaper, The Emancipator. He wanted people to have access to everything that he knew, and he believed that information would empower his fellow Virgin Islanders.

So even though I am fiercely protective of this paper and everything that it represents to me, I think it should be accessible for free to anyone who wants to learn more about Rothschild Francis and the history of the Virgin Islands. This history is Caribbean History, is Black History, is US History, is political history, is biography. I hope this paper will help any educator who would like to incorporate Rothschild Francis’ story into their curriculum.

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Here are my two greatest accomplishments: my thesis about Rothschild Francis, and his great-great grandson. Enjoy!

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