One of the arguments for excluding Chinese immigrants in the late nineteenth century was the fear they were brought here in bondage. Still recovering from the Civil War, Americans were wary of supporting the "yellow slavery" occurring in many countries whose economy was supported by field labor.

Below are a list of facts and fictions relating to "coolies" and the United States.

COOLIE FACT

A "coolie shipment" referred to a 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 (based in California) 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 a minimum wage and supplying basic provisions. Also since fraud and kidnapping were often employed to acquire recruits.

COOLIE FACT

Ships carrying coolies were almost always over-crowded and poorly supplied. So many coolies plotted mutinies on these ships that captains became 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."

--Senator A.A. Sargent of California.
COOLIE FACT

American newspapers and legislatures picked up on the story of "yellow slavery" in the U.S. and abroad and ran with it.