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Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation

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How did thousands of Chinese migrants end up working alongside African Americans in Louisiana after the Civil War? With the stories of these workers, Coolies and Cane advances an interpretation of emancipation that moves beyond U.S. borders and the black-white racial dynamic. Tracing American ideas of Asian labor to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, Moon-Ho Jung argu How did thousands of Chinese migrants end up working alongside African Americans in Louisiana after the Civil War? With the stories of these workers, Coolies and Cane advances an interpretation of emancipation that moves beyond U.S. borders and the black-white racial dynamic. Tracing American ideas of Asian labor to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, Moon-Ho Jung argues that the racial formation of "coolies" in American culture and law played a pivotal role in reconstructing concepts of race, nation, and citizenship in the United States. Jung examines how coolies appeared in major U.S. political debates on race, labor, and immigration between the 1830s and 1880s. He finds that racial notions of coolies were articulated in many, often contradictory, ways. They could mark the progress of freedom; they could also symbolize the barbarism of slavery. Welcomed and rejected as neither black nor white, coolies emerged recurrently as both the salvation of the fracturing and reuniting nation and the scourge of American civilization. Based on extensive archival research, this study makes sense of these contradictions to reveal how American impulses to recruit and exclude coolies enabled and justified a series of historical transitions: from slave-trade laws to racially coded immigration laws, from a slaveholding nation to a "nation of immigrants," and from a continental empire of manifest destiny to a liberating empire across the seas. Combining political, cultural, and social history, Coolies and Cane is a compelling study of race, Reconstruction, and Asian American history.


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How did thousands of Chinese migrants end up working alongside African Americans in Louisiana after the Civil War? With the stories of these workers, Coolies and Cane advances an interpretation of emancipation that moves beyond U.S. borders and the black-white racial dynamic. Tracing American ideas of Asian labor to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, Moon-Ho Jung argu How did thousands of Chinese migrants end up working alongside African Americans in Louisiana after the Civil War? With the stories of these workers, Coolies and Cane advances an interpretation of emancipation that moves beyond U.S. borders and the black-white racial dynamic. Tracing American ideas of Asian labor to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, Moon-Ho Jung argues that the racial formation of "coolies" in American culture and law played a pivotal role in reconstructing concepts of race, nation, and citizenship in the United States. Jung examines how coolies appeared in major U.S. political debates on race, labor, and immigration between the 1830s and 1880s. He finds that racial notions of coolies were articulated in many, often contradictory, ways. They could mark the progress of freedom; they could also symbolize the barbarism of slavery. Welcomed and rejected as neither black nor white, coolies emerged recurrently as both the salvation of the fracturing and reuniting nation and the scourge of American civilization. Based on extensive archival research, this study makes sense of these contradictions to reveal how American impulses to recruit and exclude coolies enabled and justified a series of historical transitions: from slave-trade laws to racially coded immigration laws, from a slaveholding nation to a "nation of immigrants," and from a continental empire of manifest destiny to a liberating empire across the seas. Combining political, cultural, and social history, Coolies and Cane is a compelling study of race, Reconstruction, and Asian American history.

30 review for Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rodolfo

    This short book talks about how Chinese labor was used in the 1840s-1870s in the Southern US, especially Louisiana, and its links to the Caribbean before the Chinese Exclusion Act came into play. It explores the issues of race and how Chinese labor was lodged between white 'free' labor, and black slave labor. It goes on to explore why the efforts to import Chinese labor never really succeded, and how labor resisted conditions of quasi-slavery. If anything I'd criticize that it is written a bit t This short book talks about how Chinese labor was used in the 1840s-1870s in the Southern US, especially Louisiana, and its links to the Caribbean before the Chinese Exclusion Act came into play. It explores the issues of race and how Chinese labor was lodged between white 'free' labor, and black slave labor. It goes on to explore why the efforts to import Chinese labor never really succeded, and how labor resisted conditions of quasi-slavery. If anything I'd criticize that it is written a bit too dryly, but it is overall very interesting.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scot

    I will spare you the details and get to the point. This book is brilliant. If you are interested in Asian American history, there is little I've encountered that does a better job at presenting a slice of that history while also presenting a compelling analysis of how Asians have been racialized in America. Highly recommended. I will spare you the details and get to the point. This book is brilliant. If you are interested in Asian American history, there is little I've encountered that does a better job at presenting a slice of that history while also presenting a compelling analysis of how Asians have been racialized in America. Highly recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andree

    Fascinating look at plantation owners' efforts to replace African slave labor with Chinese labor on southeast Louisiana sugar cane plantations. Even more interesting is that the cultural footprint of the Chinese is invisible in these communities today. Fascinating look at plantation owners' efforts to replace African slave labor with Chinese labor on southeast Louisiana sugar cane plantations. Even more interesting is that the cultural footprint of the Chinese is invisible in these communities today.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    👲🏻🌾⛓🗞👨🏻‍🌾☀️

  5. 5 out of 5

    Salonee Bhaman

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  7. 4 out of 5

    jess

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Liao

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zi

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike Emett

  13. 5 out of 5

    mandy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sohum

  15. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ava Vermilya

  17. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ami Nanavaty

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tristan Miranda Williams

  22. 5 out of 5

    Coly Chau

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Roman

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sylvie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jewell

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  28. 5 out of 5

    A.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zhanar Irgebay

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vaughn Harmon

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