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Raising Cane: Hawaii's Plantation Labor

From: Dmae Roberts
Series: Crossing East - Asian American History series
Length: 24:42

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A brief history of the impact the sugar industry had on immigration to Hawaii from all over the world.

Oahusugarsign2_small Told in three parts, "Raising Cane: Hawaii's Plantation Labor" by Dmae Roberts and Robynn Takayama of MediaRites describes how the sugar industry brought immigration into Hawaii and informed labor practices throughout the U.S. during several worker strikes. 

NOTE: Stations are free to split these into three features by reading the intros provided.

Part 1) By 1850, the sugar industry in Hawaii exploded. Plantations needed cheap labor, fast. The first workers came from China. Then Japan, Korea, the Philippines. The laborers had hopes of making money quickly and returning home.

Part 2) Picture Brides: In 1900, the plantations were bachelor societies. 20 percent of workers were women. Some men married native Hawaiian women, but many Japanese, Okinawan, and Korean men asked their families to help arrange a marriage across the ocean.

Part 3) Strength & Resistance: Plantation owners exploited racial differences. They pitted workers against each other. Organized protest began along ethnic lines in the early 1900s.  Workers needed higher wages to support their families and a new strategy to beat the plantation system.

Piece Description

Told in three parts, "Raising Cane: Hawaii's Plantation Labor" by Dmae Roberts and Robynn Takayama of MediaRites describes how the sugar industry brought immigration into Hawaii and informed labor practices throughout the U.S. during several worker strikes. 

NOTE: Stations are free to split these into three features by reading the intros provided.

Part 1) By 1850, the sugar industry in Hawaii exploded. Plantations needed cheap labor, fast. The first workers came from China. Then Japan, Korea, the Philippines. The laborers had hopes of making money quickly and returning home.

Part 2) Picture Brides: In 1900, the plantations were bachelor societies. 20 percent of workers were women. Some men married native Hawaiian women, but many Japanese, Okinawan, and Korean men asked their families to help arrange a marriage across the ocean.

Part 3) Strength & Resistance: Plantation owners exploited racial differences. They pitted workers against each other. Organized protest began along ethnic lines in the early 1900s.  Workers needed higher wages to support their families and a new strategy to beat the plantation system.

Broadcast History

Originally part of the Crossing East series that debuted in May 2006.

Transcript

TRANSCRIPT:

FLUTE

ACTOR: Times was real hard in Japan. Country folks like us never get money. crops no grow. And the emperor was spending money making Japan modern. Not helping the poor people. Plenty people move to the city. Somebody tell me I make good money in Hawaii. So I sign one three-year contract. I say goodbye to Hiroshima and promise my family to send money home. I told my mother I come back one rich man.

SOUND: DIGGING

ACTOR: But this no paradise. I know about hard work. But working on one small farm in Hiroshima nothing like plantation work in Hawaii.

Barbara Kawakami: She showed me her hands, you know, twisted and bruised and everything! The scars were still there!

Fuzzy Alboro: Working for the sugar company’s a dirty job. I used to dig ditch, repair pipes for the irrigation, and I was a fertilizer man.

George Fujiwara: My dad, uh I wish I knew him more....
Read the full transcript

Timing and Cues

INTRO: Raising Cane was backbreaking work and the pay was meager. Men who came to Hawaii had big dreams. They thought they would strike it rich. But the reality of plantation life was so different from what they were told by recruiters…

By 1900, the plantations were bachelor societies. Some men married native Hawaiian women. Wealthier men returned home to find brides.

In the 20th century, workers began to demand higher wages. Though vulnerable to exploitation, workers slowly gained strength through both individual and collective action. Organized protests began along ethnic lines in the early 1900s. Plantation owners exploited racial differences. They pitted workers against each other.

OUTRO: "Raising Cane" was produced by Dmae Roberts and Robynn Takayama of MediaRites. To learn more about the Great Sugar Strike and Hawaii's plantation labor histsory, visit Crossing East.org.

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Taiko Shasta Taiko :00
Guitar music Ledward Ka'apaana :00

Additional Credits

Originally part of the Crossing East series with funding by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Remixed and edited in 2008 by Dmae Roberts.

Related Website

http://www.crossingeast.org/programthree.htm