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Agricultural Labor in the South

During Reconstruction, when former black slaves achieved limited political power and economic liberty, several white planters, particularly in the Mississippi Delta region, turned to Chinese immigrants as an alternative labor supply. As Reconstruction receded, the Chinese faced racial prejudice and discrimination like Southern blacks did. Realizing that work as sharecroppers would not allow them to gain an economic foothold, many Chinese abandoned agricultural labor to became grocers. The relative number of Chinese in the American South had never been high, and some left the region for other areas of the United States or to return to China. Those who stayed in the American South used the retail food business to sustain relative economic prosperity within a social system characterized by racial segregation.
Sources consulted:
Shih-Shan Henry Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986)
James W. Loewen, The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White, 2nd ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1988)
Lucy M. Cohen, Chinese in the Post-Civil War South: A People without a History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984)

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