Despite Similar Sugar Economies, Why Hawaii Turned Out Very Differently Than Its Caribbean Counterparts

Updated August 17, 2020

When the United States Civil War started, sugar-producing states such as Louisiana stopped the delivery of sugar to the North. Instead, it needed to receive sugar from another place and thus looked to Hawaii to provide sugar. Due to the Civil War, slaves from Africa could not be employed in the Hawaiian sugar plantations; therefore, Asian labor or non-African labor became the option.

First, the plantation owners in Hawaii brought in laborers from China. When they demanded higher wages, the plantation owners brought in laborers from Japan.

Then, because the plantation owners did not want to pay the Japanese laborers more as well, around that time, laborers were brought in from the U.S. occupied Philippines. Next came the Koreans and later the Portuguese.

Even though both Hawaii and areas in the Caribbean based their economies on sugar, Hawaii became somewhat different from its Caribbean counterparts as plantation owners in Hawaii hired non-slaves from different racial groups. As a result, Hawaii became a leader in multi-ethnic, multi-racial multiculturalism.

(Excerpted from “Sugar Changed The World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science” by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos)

Related Links:

The Story of Government Sanctioned Forced Mass Movement

Why People Who Live in Cities, Like Honolulu, Never Speak a Word of English

The Unsuccessful Attempt to Lure Caucasians from Siberia to Hawaii And The Lessons Learned


Emy Louie is a “kama’aina/haole” (native/non-native person) who adventures to places on Oahu, Hawai’i, where “kama’aina” do not usually go to, that tourists go to, and vice versa. She lived in Honolulu in the ’70s and ’80s and visits Honolulu annually.

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