The White Pacific: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas after the Civil War
264pp. June 2007
The White Pacific: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas after the Civil War
Author: Horne, Gerald;
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.

14 illus.

"The research that Horne put into this scholarly undertaking is one of its most impressive aspects. . . . One cannot appreciate the enormous effort behind this study without at least a quick review of the bibliography. It is a fine guide for anyone planning to perform multi-archival research in and about the Pacific world. Horne’s book gives us an essential study of that region, filling out its unsavory complexities in all of their terrible, awesome, and beautiful detail." —American Historical Review (December 2009)

"Much of Horne’s material is new, multiarchival, and compellingly presented, and he provides some striking characterizations and interesting stories. . . . A welcome contribution to the study of white supremacy and labor exploitation in the world system." —Journal of American History (March 2008)

"The White Pacific deserves to be read and pondered by everyone interested in modern Hawaiian history." —Honolulu Star-Bulletin (26 August 2007)

"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 a 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

Author: Horne, Gerald;
Gerald Horne is Moores Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston.
Read the Introduction (PDF).

1: Toward a "White Pacific"

2: Blackbirding

3: "Bully"

4: Fiji

5: The KKK in the Pacific

6: Hawaiian Supremacy?

7: Hawaii Conquered

8: A Black Pacific?

9: Toward a "White" Australia

10: Toward Pearl Harbor—and Beyond