The U. S. Virgin Islands consists of three major islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, and about 60 other smaller islands and cays. What is now called the U. S. Virgin Islands was bought by the United States from Denmark for $25 million in 1917, because the US wanted to prevent the area from becoming a enemy base during World War I.

Before Europeans arrived, the islands had been colonized by people migrating from South America, including the Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib people. Columbus visited the region in 1493, which led to a string of attempts by Europeans to establish colonies there -- the Spanish, Knights of Malta, French, English and Dutch all had a presence in the region. The Danish came to the area in the 1600s, eventually holding the islands for over 250 years. After the Danes united the three islands under Danish rule in 1733, they turned the region into a major sugar producer, dependent on slave labor. After slaves were freed in 1848, the heydey of sugar and the Danish was over.

The U. S. Virgin Islands were granted home rule in 1970, and today are a territory of the United States. They are a popular tourist destination, owing to their beautiful scenery, pleasant climate, wonderful beaches and coral reefs. Two of the islands, St. John and St. Thomas, are quite mountainous, while St. Croix is less so.

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