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AfriGeneas Western Frontier Forum

Black Plantation Laborers in Hawaii

Hawaii experienced serious labor problems prior to 1900. Japanese and Chinese plantation laborers had sporadic strikes that began to present real problems for plantation owners. Resolutions had been presented to the Hawaii Kingdom Legislature several times between 1870 and 1898. It was not until 1900 Congress finally passed a resolution that made Hawaii a Territory of the United States. Under subtle pressure from the United States Department of Labor on its new territory ,the question came before the Hawaii Planters Association(HSPA) again to recruit African American laborers from the U.S. South. The prospects of bringing experienced plantation laborers and their families from the South to Hawaii by this time was welcomed by many plantation owners. Not only would this mean additional field hands to work on Hawaii's plantations, but it also meant African American women could also provide personal and household services to the white wives of plantation owners. "Paradise of the Pacific" quoted one plantation owner as saying that his plantation could take 25 families.He stated that "...interest has also been awakened among housewives as to the disirability of Negroes as cooks, nurses,etc and many think they might supplant the Japanese in household duties."(September 1897, p. 132) Advocates of recruiting African Americans to Hawaii for the planations envisioned as many as 30,000 being recruited. By 1900 agents were recruiting in Alabama and Tennessee for laborers with preferences being given to families.
The first group arrived in the islands in January 1901 and by June 1901 several hundred had been recruited for plantations on Maui. They were offered $26.00 per month, free housing and firewood and roundtrip transportation if they fulfilled their three year contracts. Unfortunately, the several hundred that went to Maui to work were very soon disappointed because of the harshness of working and living conditions on the plantations.

Thanks for reading. I have given more detail about the African American experience in Hawaii in "They Followed the Trade Winds: African Americans in Hawaii", University of Hawaii Press, 2004.256pp, Paperback, $18.00 also "And They Came: A Brief History of Blacks in Hawaii", 2001, Four G Publishers. 101pp. $10.00( purchase from the author)


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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