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Where Did the Labor Come From?
Small flatbed railcars piled high with sugarcane
Small flatbed railcars piled high with sugarcane

Although sugarcane had been grown in Hawaii since the early 1800s, the first export of sugar did not occur until 1837. Through the 1840s, sugar grew more important to the local economy as it became one of Hawaii’s chief exports. With the expansion of sugarcane fields came the need for more labor. Workers were brought into the islands under contract as cheap labor. Most came from Asia, notably China and Japan, and after 1900 the Philippines. Smaller numbers also came from Korea, Europe, and North America.

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