During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into English and Dutch territorial units. Sugarcane, produced by African slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.
under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as the Virgin Islands, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held on 2 November 2010 (next to be held in November 2014)
John DeJONGH reelected governor; percent of vote - John DeJONGH 56.3%, Kenneth MAPP 43.6%
highest court(s): Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands (consists of the chief justice and 2 associate justices); note - court established by US Congress in 2004 and assumed appellate jurisdiction in 2007
judge selection and term of office:
justices appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Virgin Islands Senate; justices initially serve renewable 10-year terms; chief justice elected to position by peers for a 3-year term
Superior Court (renamed in 2004 vice the Territorial Court); US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (has appellate jurisdiction over the District Court of the Virgin Islands; it is a territorial court and is not associated with a US federal judicial district); District Court of the Virgin Islands
white field with a modified US coat of arms in the center between the large blue initials V and I; the coat of arms shows a yellow eagle holding an olive branch in its right talon and three arrows in the left with a superimposed shield of seven red and six white vertical stripes below a blue panel; white is a symbol of purity, the letters stand for the Virgin Islands
Tourism, trade, and other services are the primary economic activities, accounting for roughly 57% of GDP and about half of total civilian employment in 2010. The islands hosted nearly 2.74 million visitors - 2.2 million cruise ship and 536,000 air passengers - in 2011. Industry and government each account for about one-fifth of GDP. The manufacturing sector consists of rum distilling, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. The agriculture sector is small, with most food being imported. The islands are vulnerable to damage from storms. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime, and to protect the environment.