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The Fruits of Their LaborAtlantic Coast Farmworkers and the Making of Migrant Poverty, 1870-1945$
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Cindy Hahamovitch

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780807846391

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899922_hahamovitch

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A Perfectly Irresistible Change: The Transformation of East Coast Agriculture

A Perfectly Irresistible Change: The Transformation of East Coast Agriculture

(p.14) 1 A Perfectly Irresistible Change: The Transformation of East Coast Agriculture
The Fruits of Their Labor

Cindy Hahamovitch

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter argues that there is nothing particularly new about migrant labor in North America. The continent's earliest human inhabitants were nomadic hunters who crossed a land bridge from Siberia as early as 40,000 years ago in search of caribou and woolly mammoths. The first Europeans who came “to plant an English nation” at Roanoke 500 years ago were followed by thousands of immigrant workers: farmers and artisans, servants and slaves. Indeed, American history is in large part the saga of successive waves of migrant workers and the conflicts and cultures they wrought. What distinguishes labor migrations in the “Age of Capital” from earlier movements of working people is less the total absence of woolly mammoths than the preeminence of wage labor. By the nineteenth century, more people than ever were moving great distances to sell their labor power at a price.

Keywords:   migrant labor, North America, nomadic hunters, English nation, immigrant workers

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