America has been a land of people from varying cultures for centuries. Native Red Indians, Europeans, Asians and other many people from different cultures have been and are still represented in America. This expansive region was opened up by the Europeans but major constructions were by immigrants from different regions of the world including Chinese and Irish immigrants.
Chinese immigrants were in high demand for many hard jobs on the American continent. They were hardworking people and worked in many places on arriving in America. Chinese laborers are credited for the construction of the continental railroads, bridges and frontier cities of America. However, Chinese people were not laborers only. They could also do business perfectly. Some of those who observed Chinese businessmen closely claimed that they looked like businessmen naturally. Chinese businessmen became so successful economically that Americans became worried.
There were economic upheavals from time to time during that period. Chinese businessmen were blamed for these economic hardships. Some American leaders proposed that America could do without Chinese people who were bringing economic hardships at the time. The then American government started to strategize on how to chase away Chinese people in the country and how to bar more people from America. The term “The Chinese must go” was coined out in bid to chase them away from America. The plan was to come up with laws that would make it hard for the Chinese in America to continue living there and make it impossible for new Chinese immigrants to come to the country.
Congress passed a law they named Chinese exclusion act in 1882 whose main objective was to send away Chinese immigrants and bar new immigrants. This adversely affected the population of Chinese people in most parts of the west coast of America. For example, the Chinese population in Los Angeles reduced from nine percent of the total population to less than one percent in a period of half a century. However, some immigrants were exempted from these harsh laws. Chinese officials, teachers, merchants, students and tourists were excused to live in America.
Conversely, for Chinese people to be exempted, they had to prove that they were indeed Americans either through birth or descent by an American. Although Chinese could live in America, their livelihood was not a good. Conditions for living in America were made extremely hard especially after the exclusion act was passed by the congress. Chinese people were treated badly including being isolated and discriminated against. This was facilitated by the fact that Americans started to view Chinese and other Asians differently.
American government constructed an intermediary centre from where Chinese immigrants and other Asians would be received and deported from depending on their condition. Angel Islands were developed into an immigration centre for the Chinese immigrants. The centre had doctors and other officials sent there to make sure that only immigrants with convincing papers were let through. Doctors examined the immigrants for any disease while immigration officials confirmed whether immigrants had the relevant documents.
When immigrants arrived at the centre, they were told to leave their luggage in the warehouses at the centre and led through to the dormitories. They were separated depending on their race and sex. Examination process did not only involve checking for any diseases but also interviewing immigrants to prove that their descendants were really Americans. Proving this was extremely hard because some of the questions asked during the interview were totally irrelevant. The procedure would take a few days or weeks. However, sometimes the process could take months or even years especially when an immigrant appealed for the decision made by the officials on west coast. Immigrants detained at the centre were given little food and lights were switched off at around 9pm and the immigrants were closed in the dormitories.
Industrialization is one phenomenon that has radically changed many places over the years. Need for industrialization in America led to essential changes for instance clearing the south eastern states of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia for growth of cotton that would be used in the various industries then. Lives of most Americans changed considerably due to this process. Women who stayed at home started to work for extra cash at various places. Young women left their families for the city where they could work at for example the Lowell’s mills.
Many young women flocked the Lowell’s mills for various reasons. While some were looking forwards to earn money to supplement their poor families and to buy gowns and finery, others were working at these mills to get away from the rural monotonous life. Several careers were available to the young women for instance teaching and domestic service. However, they preferred to work at the mills because they argued that mills availed them independence compared to the other jobs available.
Country girls believed that they were independent in the work and that the few hours they got to relax was enough leisure time. On the contrary, free hours were rare commodities to the so called independent girls. They were supposed to report to work before the light of dawn and work throughout the day ending their schedule ended at dusk. These girls worked for approximately twelve and half hours a day for six days a week. Hours worked per day fluctuated depending on the season of the year.
Wages paid to the young country girls ranged between two dollars and four dollars per week. This amount was approximately half of what men earned. The total amount was deducted 150 cents every week for the board. Although this amount looks little, this was the highest pay in mills. Mills other than Lowell’s paid much less yet the deductions were still there.
Boarding rooms for the girls and other workers were kept clean at all times. The company also made sure that the houses were in good condition and repainted at least once a year. Although the houses were clean, they were not very good to live in. A typical bedroom was shared by six girls. The bedroom usually had three beds which were shared by two girls each. Bathing rooms were in bad shape but there was no option but to use them. Work conditions within the mills changed and the girls were expected to do more work. While they were paid less because of the speed up plan, their overseers were given bonuses.
The girls were dissatisfied with the new work conditions and opposed it because they were being overworked for little pay. Strings of labor movement were born in Lowell’s mills by these girls. Economic conditions were harder for some time and as the conditions improved, girls from all Lowell’s mills came together to form Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in 1884 to fight for their rights. This organization is credited for shattering the idea of Lowell’s mills and industrial Utopia at large. Lowell’s imagination of an industrial Utopia came to an end when industrialism started. Irish immigrants in the mills were quickly replaced by French Canadian immigrants, the Greek and the Dutch.
Most people have learned about slavery history and know that slavery came to an end during the civil war era. However, we are surprised to realize that most people are slaves in this modern era. Freiberg Dale notes that almost everybody in the world benefits in one way or the other from slavery. It is imperative to note that pushing for lower products prices is slowly arousing the need for more slave labor.
The civil war era slavery is very different from the modern day slavery. Past slavery was direct but the modern day slavery is indirectly with few people realizing that it is slavery indeed. Ownership of a person is what most people define as slavery. Modern slavery uses psychological manipulation, low wages and threat approaches. A good example is in some Asia countries where bonded slaves are overworked to pay for small loans of less than a hundred dollars. The cost of these small loans is much more than one could imagine. Being in this kind of slavery could see your future generations working for the same amount you borrowed.
Slaves in the modern day era are more than we could imagine. This has been facilitated by the rapid increase in populations creating a pool of many people submerged in poverty. Such people are desperate for anything and are ready to work for long hours for little money to at least buy their families’ necessities. This has greatly changed the labor market because these people can work for less creating unemployment for the skilled people.
Many people are tricked into slavery by being promised good jobs in developed foreign countries especially the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada. Since they are poor, they agree to be ferried to foreign countries to for the job offer. During the transition period after they arrive in their destination, conditions change; they are sold to other people who subject them to hard labor with little or no pay. After being overworked without pay, these people are kept in deplorable conditions where they are restricted to talk to people, move around and there are no communication links to their families.
A good example is three men from Mexico who paid 250 dollars each to be smuggled into the United States. Once in the USA, they were abandoned without anything. They met a person who agreed to search a job for them. The three men were promised job of picking oranges in Florida and they agreed to be taken to that state for the job. However, upon arriving in Florida, they were told to pay a thousand dollars each for transport from Arizona to Florida.
Since they had no money, they had to work to repay the money. They worked for more than twelve hours a day seven days a week guarded by armed soldiers as they work. Their payments be deducted a large percentage for rent and food. Teenage boys from Mali are offered good foreign jobs but they end up working in cocoa plantations of Ivory Coast. East European girls are promised lucrative foreign jobs but they find themselves in European brothels where they are forced to work. Being in unknown place in a foreign land, such people have no option but to work as per the conditions stipulated.
Most governments are realizing that there are big slavery problems in all countries. Governments are working towards introduction of laws to protect enslaved people and strict laws for those responsible for these acts. United States government introduced trafficking victims’ protection act. At the same time, slavery related investigations and prosecutions have been increasing incredibly meaning that the government is working hard to stop slavery in the modern era. International Criminal Court and the United nations are assisting governments to achieve this. International court introduced slavery related prosecution laws that will be in force soon.
Advancement in technology has also helped a lot in this fight against slavery. Those practicing this are exposed through the media making it easy to investigate and prosecute them. Media can also be used for awareness campaigns and related campaigns to sensitize people on what are happenings on the ground.
McGinty, B. (n.d). Angel Island: The Half Closed Door.
Klein, M. (n.d). From Utopia to Mill Town.
French, K. (n.d). Bitter Harvest.