U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the Pacific

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: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas after the Civil War, by Gerald Horne, 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.

“Horne’s book is impressive in its research and compelling in its history and argument. It pieces together a marvelously suggestive story of the African American presence in the Pacific. . . .This is transnational history at its most ambitious and materially grounded best and includes superb comparative insights.” —David Roediger, Kendrick C. Babcock Professor of History, University of Illinois

May 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3147-9 / $29.00 (PAPER)