The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom

Regular price $ 16.95

by Jason Chang, Benjamin Barson, and Alexi Dudden, Illustrated by Kim Inthavong

PM Press

3/7/2023, hardcover

SKU: 9781629639642


The Cargo Rebellion tells a true story of mutiny on the high seas in which four hundred indentured Chinese men overthrew their captor, the Connecticut businessman and slave trader Leslie Bryson, taking a stand against an exploitative global enterprise.

The laborers learned that Bryson's claimed destination of San Francisco was a lie to trick them into deadly servitude in the dreaded guano islands of Peru. Reaching a dramatic tipping point, the mutineers rose up and killed Bryson and several of the ship's officers and then attempted to sail back to China.

This book's centerpiece, a deft graphic account of the rebellion in the context of the "coolie trade" and the struggle to end traffic in human "cargo," is supported by essays that spotlight the rebellion itself, how the subject of indentured Asian workers is being taught in classrooms, and how Chinese workers shaped the evolution of American music, particularly in the making of the first drum set. The Cargo Rebellion is a history from below that does justice to the memory of hundreds of thousands of indentured workers and demonstrates how Asian migration to the Americas was rooted in slavery, colonialism, and the life-and-death struggle against servitude.


"Slave Mutiny in the Pacific? Hell yeah! Here in these pages is a history we should have known, a powerful account of 'Coolie' rebellion during the other oceanic slave trade--the one organized in the name of free labor and abolition. Beautifully illustrated and told, this is a text you will read many times over." -- Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"Three cheers for this creative graphic history from below! The mighty mutiny of 400 Asian workers aboard the ship Robert Bowne is told here with verve and visual power, showing how the violence of global capitalism met resolute resistance. Read and be inspired by this timeless and heroic tale." -- Marcus Rediker, co-creator of Prophet against Empire: Benjamin Lay, A Graphic Novel

"The Cargo Rebellion is a brilliant fusion of arts depicting a global working-class
struggle, long ago, for the precious hope of freedom. Hurrah for Ben Barson and his collaborators!" -- Paul Buhle, editor of A People's History of American Empire, authorized biographer of CLR James 

About the Contributors:

Jason Chang received his Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010, his Masters in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2005, and his B.A. in Latin American Studies and Political Economy from Prescott College in 2002. He is currently Associate Professor of History and Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut, where he directs the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute.

Benjamin Barson received his Ph.D. in Music from the University of Pittsburgh in 2020, and his B.A. in African American Studies from Hampshire College in 2010. He is currently an adjunct professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching courses on jazz improvisation and history.

Alexis Dudden received her Ph.D. (with distinction) in History from the University of Chicago in 1998, and her B.A. in East Asian Studies, magna cum laude, from Columbia in 1991. She is currently Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, specializing in modern Japan, modern Korea, and international history.

Kim Inthavong is a visual artist. She received her BA from the University of Madison, Wisconsin and is engaged in numerous arts projects.