Early Photography: Plantation Era

Early Photography of Hawaii’s Plantation Era

Welcome to our collection of early photography of Hawaii’s plantation era. The story begins with Alice Kamokila Campbell, a turn-of-the-century voice for the Hawaiians, who had come to came to regard the importation of Asian plantation labor to be the single greatest catastrophe that ever befell the kingdom. She correctly anticipated that Asians would soon come to dominate the political landscape in Hawaii in a way that would marginalize the Hawaiians to a far greater extent than had been the case with the haole. She may have sensed the political determination that comes with being a resented minority, as Asian immigrants were for several generations, until John Burns came along and built a Democratic machine on the strength of the local “little guy”… a polyglot machine that will probably endure forever. It’s not so much race that defines politics in Hawaii; the political Great Divide has formed along the lines of local versus non-local—a movement which, oddly, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement finds little common cause with. As a result, the Hawaiian finds himself as much of a political outsider these days as the haole.

early photography of Hawaii's plantation era

He manu hānai ke kanaka na ka moe. – Man is like a pet bird belonging to the realm of sleep. (Dreams are very important. By them, one is guided to good fortune and warned of misfortune. Like a pet bird, man is taken care of.)

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early photography of Hawaii's plantation era