Catch-and Keep and the White Police
This past February, we were visiting my old childhood homestead in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
As my son, Josiah and his cousin, Asa raced off to explore ‘de bush’ in the hill behind the house, I called after them, “All-yo be careful ah de Catch…”.
It was too late!
My boy was caught by a couple of thorny branches in the scrubby undergrowth.
I teased, “Eh, eh! Yo’ geh chook by the Catch-n-Keep!”
Carefully working to free him, I told him our island ancestors once knew this plant by another name: ‘the White Police’.
What’s in a Name?
The look on Josiah’s face, initially quizzical, changed almost immediately to one of comprehension. “White police?!? Are you serious!?”
“It takes a village to raise a child”- Mountain Village 1835
- the resistance of the enslaved,
- overzealous overseer and owner, and
- a system of laws and enforcement meant to keep the enslaved in line.
Punishments were severe and intended to squelch any resistance through total domination.
Emancipation – 1848
The Labor Act
- the low pay,
- the annual contract that kept them tied to the Estates,
- the abuse of power by Estate managers to levy fines on them, and
- the difficulty with police issuing the necessary passports thus restricting their ability to leave the island.
Fireburn – 1878
The Three Queens
Crucian Clan McBean
Flora of St. Croix and the Virgin Islands
History Repeats Itself
President Barack Obama
About the Author
Dr. Dante Beretta grew up in St. Thomas and now lives in Minnesota. He has been researching his Beretta and Dinzey family history which stretches back at least 200 years in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He’s interested in hearing comments on this story and from anyone interested in finding or indexing the records now available online at the Danish Archives. You may click on his name to send him an email message. To see additional stories by Dr. Beretta, visit this link ==>Beretta Family Stories
Elizabeth Weinstein says
Dr. Beretta manages brilliantly to interweave family history, a History lesson, the trickiness of genealogical research, and sensitive comments on our difficult modern dilemmas in this piece–I don’t know how he does it with such grace and modesty. I have learned much from him and from his stories. Thank you!
Valerie Sims says
Thank you for your comments Elizabeth! I agree. Dr. Beretta has been researching his family history for many years and shares so many of his incredible insights. Lucky us. 🙂
Thank you! This story took some thought and time in the making and for awhile I wasn’t sure how it would come together. So, I appreciate your kind comments!
Gail Campbeu says
I enjoy all of your writings. It is obvious you have done a great job researching . Thank you for all of your efforts. Every time I read your writings, I feel as though I am right there. Again, THANK YOU!
Gail, I’m glad you enjoyed it- Thanks for the appreciation!
Pat Galla says
Very interesting. I’ve visited the Three Queens Fountain many times, but only now am learning the backstory. I’ve been caught by the Ketch n Keep and it’s no fun. Actually it provides a border to my property and offers a security perimeter. I’ve enjoyed reading and learning Dr Beretta’s story. I agree you can feel the account.