U.S. Virgin Islands Factbook
During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by 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.
Source: CIA World Factbook 2001
(In general, information available as of 1 January 2001 was used in the preparation of this edition.)