Most histories of the Civil War era portray the struggle over
slavery as a conflict that exclusively pitted North against South,
free labor against slave labor, and black against white. In
, Stacey L. Smith examines the battle over
slavery as it unfolded on the multiracial Pacific Coast. Despite
its antislavery constitution, California was home to a dizzying
array of bound and semibound labor systems: African American
slavery, American Indian indenture, Latino and Chinese contract
labor, and a brutal sex traffic in bound Indian and Chinese women.
Using untapped legislative and court records, Smith reconstructs
the lives of California's unfree workers and documents the
political and legal struggles over their destiny as the nation
moved through the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction.
Smith reveals that the state's anti-Chinese movement, forged in its
struggle over unfree labor, reached eastward to transform federal
Reconstruction policy and national race relations for decades to
come. Throughout, she illuminates the startling ways in which the
contest over slavery's fate included a western struggle that
encompassed diverse labor systems and workers not easily classified
as free or slave, black or white.