California, a Slave State


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

Jean Pfaelzer

View Inside Format: Hardcover
Price: $35.00
YUPComing Soon
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

The untold history of slavery and resistance in California, from the Spanish missions, indentured Native American ranch hands, Indian boarding schools, Black miners, kidnapped Chinese prostitutes, and convict laborers to victims of modern trafficking
The dark and buried history of California as a slave state is seldom acknowledged. Yet the state owes its origins to slavery. Spanish invaders captured Indigenous people to build the chain of Catholic missions. Russian otter hunters shipped Alaska Natives—the first slaves transported into California—and launched a Pacific slave triangle. Plantation slaves were marched across the plains for the Gold Rush. San Quentin Prison incubated California’s carceral state. Kidnapped Chinese girls, displayed in cages, served in brothels in early San Francisco. Indian boarding schools supplied unfree child workers. In this groundbreaking book, Jean Pfaelzer upends the North-South dichotomy in how we understand American slavery by looking west to California. In unyielding research and vivid interviews, Pfaelzer exposes how California gorged on slavery, an appetite that persists today in a global trade in human beings lured by promises of jobs and trapped in sweatshops and remote marijuana grows, or sold as nannies and sex workers.
Slavery shreds the state’s utopian brand, rewrites our understanding of the West, and redefines America’s uneasy paths to freedom.

Jean Pfaelzer is a public historian, commentator, and professor of American studies at the University of Delaware. Her books include Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans; Rebecca Harding Davis: Origins of Social Realism; and The Utopian Novel in America. She lives in Washington, DC.

“A powerful history of California’s varied systems of servitude, this book extends across three centuries, exploring bondage, resistance, and how servitude has shaped life in the golden state.”—Benjamin Madley, author of An American Genocide

“California has long asserted a proud legacy as a ‘free state.’ Jean Pfaelzer exposes huge rifts in that glossy narrative, including contemporary practices. A stunning aggregation of evidence through extraordinary research.”—Franklin Odo, Amherst College

"This capacious book excavates California's brutal history of multi-racial bondage. After reading it, we will never see the Golden State's celebrated diversity—or the stories the nation tells itself about its racial past—in the same way."—P. Gabrielle Foreman, The Colored Conventions Project

“Through prolific storytelling using a range of human characters, Jean Pfaelzer takes us through the long California story of slavery and unfreedom in its many forms, offering a powerful revision of the state’s history.”—Philip Deloria, author of Playing Indian
ISBN: 9780300211641
Publication Date: June 27, 2023
528 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
62 b/w illus.
The Lamar Series in Western History
Sugar Creek

Life on the Illinois Prairie

John Mack Faragher

View details
Desert Immigrants

The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920

Mario T. García

View details

Wolves and Men in America

Jon T. Coleman

View details