Abolition, Chinese Indentured Labor, and the State: Cuba, Peru, and the United States during the Mid Nineteenth Century

Benjamin N. Narváez

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Abolition forced planters in the post-Civil War US South to consider new sources and forms of labor. Some looked to Spanish America for answers. Cuba had long played a prominent role in the American imagination because of its proximity, geostrategic location, and potential as a slave state prior to the Civil War. Even as the United States embraced abolition and Cuba maintained slavery, the island presented Southern planters with potential labor solutions. Cuban elites had been using male Chinese indentured workers (coolies or colonos asiáticos) to supplement slave labor and delay the rise of free labor since 1847. Planters in coastal Peru similarly embraced Chinese indentured labor in 1849 as abolition neared. Before the Civil War, Southerners generally had noted these developments with anxiety, fearing that coolies were morally corrupt and detrimental to slavery. However, for many, these concerns receded once legal slavery ended. Planters wanted cheap exploitable labor, which coolies appeared to offer. Thus, during Reconstruction, Southern elites, especially in Louisiana, attempted to use Chinese indentured workers to minimize changes in labor relations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)5-40
    Number of pages36
    JournalAmericas
    Volume76
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

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