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The White Pacific

The White Pacific: U.S. Imperalism and Black Slavery in the South Seas after the Civil War

Gerald Horne
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    The White Pacific
    Book Description:

    Worldwide supplies of sugar and cotton were impacted dramatically as the U.S. Civil War dragged on. New areas of production entered these lucrative markets, particularly in the South Pacific, and plantation agriculture grew substantially in disparate areas such as Australia, Fiji, and Hawaii. The increase in production required an increase in labor; in the rush to fill the vacuum, freebooters and other unsavory characters began a slave trade in Melanesians and Polynesians that continued into the twentieth century. The White Pacific ranges over the broad expanse of Oceania to reconstruct the history of "blackbirding" (slave trading) in the region. It examines the role of U.S. citizens (many of them ex-slaveholders and ex-confederates) in the trade and its roots in Civil War dislocations. What unfolds is a dramatic tale of unfree labor, conflicts between formal and informal empire, white supremacy, threats to sovereignty in Hawaii, the origins of a White Australian policy, and the rise of Japan as a Pacific power and putative protector. It also pieces together a wonderfully suggestive history of the African American presence in the Pacific. Based on deft archival research in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, the United States, and Great Britain, The White Pacific uncovers a heretofore hidden story of race, labor, war, and intrigue that contributes significantly to the emerging intersectional histories of race and ethnicity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6517-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Kapitani was seething with fury.

    This dark-skinned man—and a number of his comrades—had been seized from his homeland at the behest of a U.S. national, Achilles Underwood, and taken to labor like slaves on a plantation. He and his comrades had been subject to frequent floggings, “often for the most trifling thing.” The tipping point arrived when they were placed in a small house, “about six feet by eight feet, the floor having been covered with chopped branches of lemon and orange trees and so full that there was no room for any of them to lie down,...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Toward a “White Pacific”
    (pp. 17-32)

    The system of transporting British and Irish convicts that brought so many Europeans to Australia in the late eighteenth century was, in a sense, a variant of the slave mode of production, thuspossiblyeasing apprehensions toward blackbirding in the region’s superpower. With U.S. independence, London lost this huge land as a dumping ground for the indigent and the island continent emerged as a substitute. Strikingly, the use of New South Wales as a convict colony was suggested by the North American loyalist James Matra. Some who had fought against London in North America wound up in New South Wales.¹...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Blackbirding
    (pp. 33-47)

    Between 1866 and 1891, perhaps 48,000 Pacific Islanders, mostly from the Solomons, were brought to work in Queensland, though given the nature of the trade, it is obviously difficult to gauge a precise figure. For example, it is estimated that during the heyday of blackbirding, 70,000 healthy boys and girls were taken from the New Hebrides alone.¹ The devastation induced by these alien invasions overwhelmed the New Hebrides, whose population, which in 1870 was generally thought to be 650,000, fell to a mere 100,000 by the turn of the century.² From 1863 to 1904, nearly 60,000 Coral Sea Islanders were...

  6. CHAPTER 3 “Bully”
    (pp. 48-62)

    In 1872 as the United States was in the painful midst of adjusting to a postslavery future, U.S. national Henry Gardner, then at Strong’s Island in the South Seas, was stunned when witnessing a glimmer of the U.S. past at Providence Island and proceeded to swear to what he saw: the notorious buccaneer and fellow U.S. national William “Bully” Hayes arrived with his vessel. Gardner recalled, “[Hayes] had a young Penjelap girl on board with him and one day he brought her on shore and took her to the bush. About half an hour afterwards I saw the girl coming...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Fiji
    (pp. 63-76)

    According to historian R.A. Derrick, in early-nineteenth-century Fiji, “Negroes, who were sometimes landed from American ships, were even more prized than white men. . . . There was at least one North American Red Indian, known as Indian John, who, having been paid off in Fiji from an American whaler, acquired Tawadromu Island, in Galoa Bay, Kadavu, and settled there.” But Negroes, from the United States and former British West Indies, were cherished particularly because their English language skills were accompanied by a complexion that meant they were virtually indistinguishable from indigenous Fijians, which allowed them to integrate more effectively...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The KKK in the Pacific
    (pp. 77-91)

    “Mr. Proctor arrived in Levuka yesterday from the Ba” in Fiji to report on the desperate plight of “white settlers along this part of the coast”; their lives were jeopardized by the government due to their alleged inertia.¹ Thus was the Ministry of Native Affairs informed about the arrival of the notorious Timber-Toes, James Proctor, the epitome of the Confederate Diaspora and now a noted blackbirder. He was now riding to the rescue to bail out settlers under siege by angry indigenes, furious about the influx of settlers who were seizing land and stocking it with de facto slaves from...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Hawaiian Supremacy?
    (pp. 92-109)

    Very early in the nineteenth century, the Hawaiian Kingdom toyed with the idea of assuming a role as the leading Pacific power and of annexing or establishing protectorates or spheres of influence over various other groups in this vast ocean region. Kamehameha I, the “Napoleon of the Pacific,” after uniting the larger islands in the Hawaiian chain, dreamed of new worlds to conquer and allegedly contemplated using a fleet built for the subjugation of Kauai to obtain ascendancy in Tahiti.¹ As Fiji was spinning toward British annexation, this notion of the hegemony of Honolulu had not disappeared. The controversial Hawaiian...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Hawaii Conquered
    (pp. 110-128)

    The tiny Kingdom of Hawaii was more sophisticated than its Pacific counterparts—for example, Fiji—and sought to avoid their fate: blackbirding, annexation, and all the rest. To that end, it played a desperate diplomatic game, seeking to ally with Great Britain, then Japan in order to avoid the power that was bearing down on it—the United States. However, after London annexed Fiji, powerful momentum was generated in Washington behind the idea of the United States countering this maneuver by annexing Hawaii, as the great powers played a kind of diplomatic chess in the Pacific. When Honolulu sought to...

  11. CHAPTER 8 A Black Pacific?
    (pp. 129-145)

    As the local opponents of the Kingdom of Hawaii surged to power at the end of the nineteenth century, they quickly unsheathed a powerful weapon against their opponents. They whispered that King Kalakaua and his sister were not true Hawaiians but rather the children of a Negro coachman, John Poppin, who had been their mother’s secret lover; these Euro-Americans became even bolder and followed King Kalakaua to his speaking engagements, where they held up an effigy of the coachman and jeered “nigger” as he spoke.¹ This crusade reached a zenith three days before the 1873 election—as black voting rights...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Toward a “White” Australia
    (pp. 146-160)

    With U.S. Negroes pouring into the colonies of Australia, especially the area surrounding Melbourne, and darker-skinned bonded labor flooding into Queensland, those who deemed the most literal and chauvinistic variety of white supremacy to be precious were growing ever more concerned. As in Hawaii, a kind of racial protectionism arose to blunt the free trade in labor, whereby Euro-Australians of various stripes began to object to what they saw as the competition presented by the “darkening” of the colonies. This Australian discourse was profoundly influenced by similar trends in the United States. Indeed, says scholar Marilyn Lake, “it was in...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Toward Pearl Harbor—and Beyond
    (pp. 161-178)

    The prominent official of New South Wales Edward Dowling had not only advice on how the colonies might avoid the fate of the United States, but also pointed opinions about the issue that was ever linked to that of global diplomacy: labor—or from whence on the planet workers would emerge to produce the wealth necessary to propel the economy. Thus, he favored South Asians, principally Indians, over the Japanese as migrant laborers for neighboring Fiji since they were not as “dangerous as the intelligent Japanese to the permanent occupation of Fiji by the white races. The proximity of China,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 179-238)
  15. Index
    (pp. 239-254)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-258)