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Coolies and Cane Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation by Moon-Ho Jung

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


Coolies and Cane Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation by Moon-Ho Jung

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.


In this important and well-researched work, Moon-Ho Jung argues that southern sugar planters looked to Asian 'coolies
to solve their labor problems after the Civil War

. -- John S. W. Park * American Historical Review * Argues that coolies played an important role in the social construction of 'whiteness
in the United States

... Thoroughly researched. -- Edward Rhoads * Agricultural History Review * Brilliant and beautifully written... Jung's slim volume makes it clear that coolieism was not a marginal issue. The debate over coolieism was bound up in the most pressing issues of the Civil War era, from the policing of the slave-trade ban to the redefinition of citizenship in the postwar South. -- Cindy Hahamovitch * Journal of American History * Well researched study... These larger questions about race and labor are relevant not only for understanding the age of emancipation, but also for the current political climate of intensified debates on immigration and citizenship in the United States. -- Kathleen Lopez * Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History * The heart, strength, and originality of this riveting narrative rest in Jung's discussion of the debates concerning Chinese coolies among diverse sectors of white southerners... A model of the best of American history and, especially, studies of Asian American history and race and ethnicity. -- Evelyn Hu-DeHart * Journal of American Ethnic History * Not only enriches the texture of Asian American, African American, and southem history, but also offers a global perspective on 19th-century labor migrations. -- Carol Huang * Journal of African American History * Focusing on attempts to import Chinese contract labor to Louisiana sugar plantations in the decade after the Civil War, this book argues for the importance of the Chinese 'coolie
in the construction of race, nation, and citizenship in the United States

. -- Adam McKeown * Pacific Historical Review * Jung's work contains real passion... It will have substantial appeal for academic specialists and university libraries with collections in southern, agricultural, and labor history. -- Michael G. Wade * Journal of Southern History * Breakthrough study... Coolies and Cane stands as an instructive study of race, Reconstruction, and Asian American history that points the way for further research. -- Walter T. Howard * Louisiana History * An ambitious book... A provocative invitation to reexamine our understanding of race in America in the 'age of emancipation.
Gordon H. Chang

* Agricultural History * This book is bound to be valuable for comparative purposes... It is also a welcome contribution to transnational approaches to American history. -- Ian Tyrrell * Labor History *

About the Author

Moon-Ho Jung is an associate professor of history at the University of Washington.

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Book Info

Publication date

29th September 2008


Moon-Ho Jung

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Johns Hopkins University Press


288 pages


Ethnic studies



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