After spending a semester in the classroom studying Alexander Hamilton’s impact on revolutionary activity in the Black Atlantic World, University of Tulsa students traveled to St. Croix to get a first-hand look at the island town where the architect of America’s financial system spent his formative years.
Film studies senior Drew Dreiling feels the themes of the course resonated more after studying abroad in St. Croix. “As a student in the Roots of Hamilton class, I got to walk in the footsteps of Alexander Hamilton and see the places that influenced him as a boy in St. Croix,” he said. “My experiences on this trip provided much more meaning to all I had studied about Alexander Hamilton and the Atlantic Slave Trade.”
St. Croix has been under the rule of seven different countries since the 15th century and was one of the many islands in the Caribbean where Europeans brought slaves from Africa to produce sugar and rum, which were the main exports of St. Croix until an 1848 slave rebellion forced the governor-general to abolish slavery in the Danish West-Indies. Students visited the Estate Whim Museum to get a glimpse of what life for slaves and residents was like throughout the island’s colonial history.
“We got to visit the beautiful landscapes around the island, and we visited the research library and archives at the Estate Whim Living Museum,” said Dreiling. “This library has archives of the enslaved people who lived on St. Croix so families can trace their ancestry.”
Having journeyed to the island many times with students, Professor Kristen Oertel, chair of the Department of History, believes students are exposed to a perfect balance of historical authenticity and modern insight from descendants of the island’s most influential figures.
“After studying the themes of oppression, Black resistance, and revolution in the Caribbean, our students get to experience and walk through the spaces we studied during the semester,” Oertel said. “We see monuments of key figures in the emancipation movements and hear oral histories from their descendants, who are proud of their ancestors’ resilience and vibrant culture, which is still palpable on the island.”
Political science senior Abby Lowen encourages any student looking for a fun, enriching experience to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities available through the TU Center for Global Engagement. She insists that traveling to St. Croix was an invaluable part of her learning experience.
“It is one thing to read and talk about things that happened over 200 years ago, and another thing altogether to walk down the same streets as historical figures, and witness with your own eyes the circumstances they experienced,” she said. “The class would have been educational, but significantly less impactful, if there hadn’t been the trip.”
TU’s Kendall College of Arts & Sciences faculty lead multiple study abroad courses each year so students can experience the arts, humanities and social sciences through different lenses.