One common claim made against Chinese laborers was that they were coming to America against their will. Rumors of shipments of indentured servants, also known as "coolies," entering the United States much like Chinese laborers heading for other countries in need of field labor troubled many who had struggled to move on after the recent Civil War behind them. A fear that Chinese immigrants would bring "yellow slavery" to America grew as the California economy fluctuated.

These fears, however, were often greatly exaggerated as the following list of "coolie" facts and fictions demonstrates.

COOLIE FACT

A "coolie shipment" referred to Chinese labor emigration to the Western Hemisphere (usually to tropical locations such as Cuba and Peru) in which each laborer was provided with transportation, a minimum wage, and room and board in exchange for working an allotted amount of time (usually 7 years) in bondage.
COOLIE FICTION

The Chinese Six Companies--a loose affiliation of six Chinese organizations and one of the few groups to speak on behalf of Chinese immigrants looking for fair treatment in America--were active in the Coolie trade.

COOLIE FACT

Coolie labor was viewed as a new form of slavery since employers of coolies were not legally required to take care of their men outside of paying them a minimum wage and providing basic provisions. Also, fraud and kidnapping common tactics used by agents (middle men between laborers and employers) when filling a "coolie shipment."

COOLIE FACT

Ships carrying "coolies" were almost always over-crowded and poorly supplied. Mutinies were so common on these shipments that many boat captains were reluctant to transport these laborers.

COOLIE FICTION

"Chinese immigration [to the U.S.] involves sordid wages, no public schools, the absence of families, and a constant outflow of persons who have worked out specific years of service."

--A.A. Sargent
U.S. Senator (California)
COOLIE FACT

American newspapers and politicians described "yellow slavery" occurring in the United States and while concerning themselves with this foreign threat, exaggerated the facts and played upon the fears of their audience.