In July 1848, the slaves of Danish West Indies staged a protest and gained their freedom. This freedom would be short-lived. The now free laborers were forced, by law, to sign contracts which bound them and their families to the plantations on which they worked. By signing these contracts, the laborers became slaves again, in all but name. In 1878, a violent rebellion took place in which houses, sugar mills, sugar fields, and over half the city of Frederiksted burned down.