7/23/13

Chinese to the South 3. As Cheap Labor Replacement

A leading labor contractor, Cornelius Koopmanschap, who had earlier success importing Chinese to help build the Central Pacific Railroad made a proposal in 1869 at a Memphis convention of Southern planters to bring Chinese farm laborers to the South to replace black labor lost when slavery ended. He maintained that the Chinese were not only cheaper, but also more reliable workers, but there was also opposition that feared a large influx of Orientals.


        The initial enthusiasm soon waned as Chinese who came did not like to work in the fields, preferring to start their own businesses in grocery stores in the Mississippi Delta and other parts of the South such as Augusta, Georgia. Other Chinese opened hand laundries in many towns in the region.  Competing sources of labor, both black and white, complained about the flood of cheap Chinese labor.
      A Savannah Georgia newspaper article in 1869 indicated that another contractor already had orders for over 600 Chinese for the region around Savannah. In 1874, another article confirmed that 14 Chinese laborers had arrived recently and were working in the rice plantations.


       Resentment was evident among competing sources of labor at the arrival of the Chinese.  In 1884, the Chinese in Augusta tried to defuse the tension by denying that the number of Chinese in their city was in the hundreds as the opposition claimed and insisting that there were no more than 30 Chinamen in the area.


        The Chinese population in the Deep South up until well beyond the middle of the 20th century was never very large.  Some moved to other parts of the country where there were larger Chinese communities, but other Chinese came to the South from northern states and as far away as California seeking economic opportunities.  In many cases, later arrivals were relatives of the earlier generation recruited to come help in the family grocery stores, laundries, and eventually restaurants.








1 comment:

  1. Could I get a citation for the image used here. It would be helpful for my own research.

    ReplyDelete

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