Understanding American Citizenship: Chinese Immigration in the United States

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To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot

Even in the late nineteenth-century American West, a notably violent region, the violence directed against Chinese immigrants was shocking. The Union Pacific railroad employed 331 Chinese and 150 whites in their coal mine in Rock Springs, Wyoming. On September 2, 1885, Chinese and white miners, who were paid by the ton, had a dispute over who had the right to work in a particularly desirable area of the mine. White miners, members of the Knights of Labor, beat two Chinese miners and walked off their jobs. That evening the white miners, armed with rifles, rioted and burned down the Chinese quarter. No whites were prosecuted for the murder of twenty-eight Chinese and $150,000 in property damage, even though the identities of those responsible were widely known. Although U.S. Army troops had to provide protection before some of the Chinese could finally return to their burned-out homes in Rock Springs, some defiantly continued to work in the Union Pacific mines into the next century. The grim story of the riot was given in the Chinese workers’ own words in this “memorial” that they presented to the Chinese Consul at New York.
We, the undersigned, have been in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, for periods ranging from one to fifteen years, for the purpose of working on the railroads and in the coal mines.

Up to the time of the recent troubles we had worked along with the white men, and had not had the least ill feeling against them. The officers of the companies employing us treated us and the white man kindly, placing both races on the same footing and paying the same wages.

Several times we had been approached by the white men and requested to join them in asking the companies for an increase in the wages of all, both Chinese and white men. We inquired of them what we should do if the companies refused to grant an increase. They answered that if the companies would not increase our wages we should all strike, then the companies would be obliged to increase our wages. To this we dissented, wherefore we excited their animosity against us.

During the past two years there has been in existence in “Whitemen’s Town,” Rock Springs, an organization composed of white miners, whose object was to bring about the expulsion of all Chinese from the Territory. To them or to their object we have paid no attention. About the month of August of this year notices were posted up, all the way from Evanston to Rock Springs, demanding the expulsion of the Chinese, & c. On the evening of September l, 1885, the bell of the building in which said organization meets rang for a meeting. It was rumored on that night that threats had been made against the Chinese.

On the morning of September 2, a little past seven o’clock, more than ten white men, some in ordinary dress and others in mining suits, ran into Coal Pit No. 6, loudly declaring that the Chinese should not be permitted to work there. The Chinese present reasoned with them in a few words, but were attacked with murderous weapons, and three of their number wounded. The white foreman of the coal pit, hearing of the disturbance, ordered all to stop work for the time being.

After the work had stopped, all the white men in and near Coal Pit No. 6 began to assemble by the dozen. They carried firearms, and marched to Rock Springs by way of the railroad from Coal Pit No. 6, and crossing the railroad bridge, went directly to “Whitemen’s Town.” All this took place before 10:00 A.M. We now heard the bell ringing for a meeting at the white men’s organization building. Not long after, all the white men came out of that building, most of them assembling in the barrooms, the crowds meanwhile growing larger and larger.

About two o’clock in the afternoon a mob, divided into two gangs, came toward “Chinatown,” one gang coming by way of the plank bridge, and the other by way of the railroad bridge. The gang coming by way of the railroad bridge was the larger, and was subdivided into many squads, some of which did not cross the bridge, but remained standing on the side opposite to “Chinatown”; others that had already crossed the bridge stood on the right and left at the end of it. Several squads marched up the hill behind Coal Pit No. 3.

One squad remained at Coal Shed No. 3 and another at the pump house. The squad that remained at the pump house fired the first shot, and the squad that stood at Coal Shed No. 3 immediately followed their example and fired. The Chinese by name of Lor Sun Kit was the first person shot, and fell to the ground. At that time the Chinese began to realize that the mob were bent on killing. The Chinese, though greatly alarmed, did not yet begin to flee.

Soon after, the mob on the hill behind Coal Pit No. 3 came down from the hill, and joining the different squads of the mob, fired their weapons and pressed on to Chinatown.

The gang that were at the plank bridge also divided into several squads, pressing near and surrounding “Chinatown.” One squad of them guarded the plank bridge in order to cut off the retreat of the Chinese.

Not long after, it was everywhere reported that a Chinese named Leo Dye Bah, who lived in the western part of “Chinatown,” was killed by a bullet, and that another named Yip Ah Marn, resident in the eastern end of the town, was likewise killed. The Chinese now, to save their lives, fled in confusion in every direction, some going up the hill behind Coal Pit No. 3, others along the foot of the hill where Coal Pit No. 4 is; some from the eastern end of the town fled across Bitter Creek to the opposite hill, and others from the western end by the foot of the hill on the right of Coal Pit No. 5. The mob were now coming in the three directions, namely, the east and west sides of the town and from the wagon road.

Whenever the mob met a Chinese they stopped him and, pointing a weapon at him, asked him if he had any revolver, and then approaching him they searched his person, robbing him of his watch or any gold or silver that he might have about him, before letting him go. Some of the rioters would let a Chinese go after depriving him of all his gold and silver, while another Chinese would be beaten with the butt ends of the weapons before being let go. Some of the rioters, when they could not stop a Chinese, would shoot him dead on the spot, and then search and rob him. Some would-overtake a Chinese, throw him down and search and rob him before they would let him go. Some of the rioters would not fire their weapons, but would only use the butt ends to beat the Chinese with. Some would not beat a Chinese, but rob him of whatever he had and let him go, yelling to him to go quickly. Some, who took no part either in beating or robbing the Chinese, stood by, shouting loudly and laughing and clapping their hands.

There was a gang of women that stood at the “Chinatown” end of the plank bridge and cheered; among the women, two of them each fired successive shots at the Chinese. This was done about a little past 3:00 P.M.

Most of the Chinese fled toward the eastern part of “Chinatown.” Some of them ran across Bitter Creek, went up directly to the opposite hill, crossing the grassy plain. Some of them went along the foot of the hill where Coal Pit No. 4 stood, to cross the creek, and by a devious route reached the opposite hill. Some of them ran up to the hill of Coal Pit No. 3, and thence winding around the hills went to the opposite hill. A few of them fled to the foot of the hill where Coal Pit No. 5 stood, and ran across the creek, and thence by a winding course to the western end of the “Whitemen’s Town.” But very few did this.

The Chinese who were the first to flee mostly dispersed themselves at the back hills, on the opposite bank of the creek, and among the opposite hills. They were scattered far and near, high and low, in about one hundred places. Some were standing, or sitting, or lying hid on the grass, or stooping down on the low grounds. Every one of them was praying to Heaven or groaning with pain. They had been eyewitnesses to the shooting in “Chinatown,” and had seen the whites, male and female, old and young, searching houses for money, household effects, or gold, which were carried across to “Whitemen’s Town.”

Some of the rioters went off toward the railroad of Coal Pit No. 6, others set fire to the Chinese houses. Between 4:00 P.M. and a little past 9:00 P.M. all the camp houses belonging to the coal company and the Chinese huts had been burned down completely, only one of the company’s camp houses remaining. Several of the camp houses near Coal pit No. 6 were also burned, and the three Chinese huts there were also burned. All the Chinese houses burned numbered seventy-nine.

Some of the Chinese were killed at the bank of Bitter Creek, some near the railroad bridge, and some in “Chinatown.” After having been killed, the dead bodies of some were carried to the burning buildings and thrown into the flames. Some of the Chinese who had hid themselves in the houses were killed and their bodies burned; some, who on account of sickness could not run, were burned alive in the houses. One Chinese was killed in “Whitemen’s Town” in a laundry house, and his house demolished. The whole number of Chinese killed was twenty-eight and those wounded fifteen.

The money that the Chinese lost was that which in their hurry they were unable to take with them, and consequently were obliged to leave in their houses, or that which was taken from their persons. The goods, clothing, or household effects remaining in their houses were either plundered or burned.

When the Chinese fled to the different hills they intended to come back to “Chinatown” when the riot was over, to dispose of the dead bodies and to take care of the wounded. But to their disappointment, all the houses were burned to ashes, and there was then no place of shelter for them; they were obliged to run blindly from hill to hill. Taking the railroad as their guide, they walked toward the town of Green River, some of them reaching that place in the morning, others at noon, and others not until dark. There were some who did not reach it until the fourth of September. We felt very thankful to the railroad company for having telegraphed to the conductors of all its trains to pick up such of the Chinese as were to be met with along the line of the railroad and carry them to Evanston.

On the fifth of September all the Chinese that had fled assembled at Evanston; the native citizens there threatened day and night to burn and kill the Chinese. Fortunately, United States troops had been ordered to come and protect them, and quiet was restored. On the ninth of September the United States government instructed the troops to escort the Chinese back to Rock Springs. When they arrived there they saw only a burnt tract of ground to mark the sites of their former habitations. Some of the dead bodies had been buried by the company, while others, mangled and decomposed, were strewn on the ground and were being eaten by dogs and hogs. Some of the bodies were not found until they were dug out of the ruins of the buildings. Some had been burned beyond recognition. It was a sad and painful sight to see the son crying for the father, the brother for the brother, the uncle for the nephew, and friend for friend.

By this time most of the Chinese have abandoned the desire of resuming their mining work, but inasmuch as the riot has left them each with only the one or two torn articles of clothing they have on their persons, and as they have not a single cent in their pockets, it is a difficult matter for them to make any change in their location. Fortunately, the company promised to lend them clothing and provisions, and a number of wagons to sleep in. Although protected by government troops, their sleep is disturbed by frightful dreams, and they cannot obtain peaceful rest.

Some of the rioters who killed the Chinese and who set fire to the homes could be identified by the Chinese, and some not. Among them the two women heretofore mentioned, and who killed some Chinese, were specially recognized by many Chinese. Among the rioters who robbed and plundered were men, women, and children. Even the white woman who formerly taught English to the Chinese searched for and took handkerchiefs and other articles.

The Chinese know that the white men who worked in Coal Pit No. 1 did not join the mob, and most of them did not stop work, either. We heard that the coal company’s officers had taken a list of the names of the rioters who were particularly brutal and murderous, which list numbered forty or fifty.

From a survey of all the circumstances, several causes may be assigned for the killing and wounding of so many Chinese and the destruction of so much property:

1. The Chinese had been for a long time employed at the same work as the white men. While they knew that the white men entertained ill feelings toward them, the Chinese did not take precautions to guard against this sudden outbreak, inasmuch as at no time in the past had there been any quarrel or fighting between the races.

2. On the second day of September 1885, in Coal Pit No. 6, the white men attacked the Chinese. That place being quite a distance from Rock Springs, very few Chinese were there. As we did not think that the trouble would extend to Rock Springs, we did not warn each other to prepare for flight.

3. Most of the Chinese living in Rock Springs worked during the daytime in the different coal mines, and consequently did not hear of the fight at Coal Pit No. 6, nor did they know of the armed mob that had assembled in “Whitemen’s Town.” When twelve o’clock came, everybody returned home from his place of work to lunch. As yet the mob had not come to attack the Chinese; a great number of the latter were returning to work without any apprehension of danger.

4. About two o’clock the mob suddenly made their appearance for the attack. The Chinese thought that they had only assembled to threaten, and that some of the company’s officers would come to disperse them. Most of the Chinese, acting upon this view of the matter, did not gather up their money or clothing, and when the mob fired at them they fled precipitately. Those Chinese who were in the workshops, hearing of the riot, stopped work and fled in their working clothes, and' did not have time enough to go home to change their clothes or to gather up their money. What they did leave at home was either plundered or burned.

5. None of the Chinese had firearms or any defensive weapons, nor was there any place that afforded an opportunity for the erection of a barricade that might impede the rioters in their attack. The Chinese were all like a herd of frightened deer that let the huntsmen surround and kill them.

6. All the Chinese had, on the first of September, bought from the company a month’s supply of provision and the implements necessary for the mining of coal. This loss of property was therefore larger than it would be later in the month.

We never thought that the subjects of a nation entitled by treaty to the rights and privileges of the most favored nation could, in a country so highly civilized like this, so unexpectedly suffer the cruelty and wrong of being unjustly put to death, or of being wounded and left without the means of cure, or being abandoned to poverty, hunger, and cold, and without the means to betake themselves elsewhere.

To the great President of the United States, who, hearing of the riot, sent troops to protect our lives, we are most sincerely thankful.

In behalf of those killed or wounded, or of those deprived of their property, we pray that the examining commission will ask our minister to sympathize, and to endeavor to secure the punishment of the murderers, the relief of the wounded, and compensation for those despoiled of their property, so that the living and the relatives of the dead will be grateful, and never forget his kindness for generations.

Hereinabove we have made a brief recital of the facts of this riot, and pray your honor will take them into your kind consideration.


When did the riot occur?

Who wrote “To This We Dissented?”
What was the dispute about?
In your opinion, why was no one arrested?
According to the memorial, up to 1885, how did the whites and Chinese men get along?
Why did animosity begin?
What was “Whitemen’s Town?”
What was the name of the area where the Chinese men lived?
A massacre is when unarmed people are attacked. Was this a massacre?
The memorial mentions the treaty between the United States and China, allowing the Chinese to work in America. What did that have to do with the Chinese not expecting the violence?
Who ordered the Army troops to come protect the Chinese?

What was his name (You may have to do some research!)?


Expulsion:  The Tacoma Method

On November 3, 1885, a large group of Tacoma men rounded up all the Chinese people still in the city (about 200 people, including both individual laborers and whole families) and marched them out of town. The next day some Tacomans ravaged Chinese businesses downtown and burned shops and lodgings that formed the Chinese settlement along the waterfront. This dramatic set of actions was the climax of growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the region and beyond in the 1880s, the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) to stop Chinese immigration into the United States. In the western part of the country, Tacoma was not the only venue of violence; but Tacoma's use of orderly force to drive out of the city all Chinese who had not left earlier, when tensions were mounting, set an example that became known as "The Tacoma Method," remembered for its seeming avoidance of physical harm to the Chinese. 

Lorraine Barker Hildebrand, author of Straw Hats, Sandals, and Steel: The Chinese in Washington State, drafted the original version of the following synopsis of the expulsion of Tacoma's Chinese population. The statement dates from fall 1992 and was part of the earliest work of what would become the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation.* 

"In 1849, Chinese workers began to emigrate to the United States, particularly California. Lured by tales of "Gum San," the Land of the Golden Mountains, they came seeking a better life for themselves and their families in China. 

Working the tailings left by white miners, they soon discovered that Gum San was not all they had been told. Oppressive taxes and restrictive legislation were enacted against them by white miners and other workers who feared a tide of foreign labor that would deprive white Californians of their livelihoods. 

During the early 1860s, ten thousand Chinese laborers were imported to California to complete work on the Central Pacific Railroad. After the completion of the project in 1869, many of the Chinese were without work and had to look farther afield for jobs. British Columbia and eastern Washington Territory offered gold mining. In 1870, two thousand Chinese were hired to work on the Northern Pacific Railroad line from Kalama in the southwestern corner of Washington Territory to Tacoma, the western terminus of the line. Many Chinese came north, and both legislative and popular persecution followed them, first in British Columbia, then in eastern Washington, and finally in western Washington and the Puget Sound area. 

Some say that history repeats itself, and in this instance, it did. Work that had been available for the Chinese began to dwindle as projects reached completion and the national economy went into a slump in 1873. As in California, Washington residents were beginning to feel the economic pinch, and they also looked for something or someone to blame. What better scapegoat than the Chinese: They wore odd clothes, ate different food, and, since they could “live on practically nothing,” sent most of their earnings home to China rather than spending it in the local economy. 

Several local citizens who had witnessed problems in California firsthand and knew of Californians' efforts to send away the Chinese met with the mayor of Tacoma and members of the school board, the legal profession, the local press, and other influential people. Together, they generated their plan for ridding Tacoma of its Chinese population: Not a massacre but an expulsion. This, they concluded, would assure plenty of jobs available for the locals who were without work in a sour economy. 

Mass meetings, with the mayor presiding, were held at the Alpha Opera House for public debate on the subject. As reported in the local paper, the rhetoric was passionately in favor of expulsion. The other side of the debate was presented by some local citizens--Ezra Meeker, the Puyallup pioneer, and an alliance of Protestant ministers--but their pleas were in vain. Swayed by civic leaders and others, the crowds favored expulsion. 

Warnings were issued to the Chinese: "You must be Gone!" Employers of Chinese workers were forced to replace them with whites or Indians. Posters on the telephone poles said "The Chinese Must Go!" Seattle soon followed Tacoma’s lead, and the persecution spread up and down the Puget Sound. 

Final plans were made on the night of November 2, 1885. On November 3, at 9:30 a.m., the whistles blew at Lister’s Foundry and other mills in the area. Several hundred workers assembled and began their methodical march through Tacoma’s streets where the Chinese had businesses--wash-houses, chop-houses, shops--and residences. On to Chinatown and the waterfront they marched. At each place where Chinese were, the crowd stopped, hammered on the door, and told them to assemble at 7th and Pacific Avenue by early afternoon, for they were to leave Tacoma that day. 

Later in the day, about 200 Chinese--young, old, men, and women--were gathered. Then began the forced trek to Lake View, a suburban railway station just beyond the city limit south of Tacoma. The wind was bitter and the rain driving as the Chinese were marched through the mud. 

Some of the Chinese who were quite old or ill were driven to Lake View by wagon. The station at Lake View had only a shed for protection, and after seeing the distress of the Chinese some local people brought food and hot water for tea. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed. However, the wife of Lum May, a successful merchant, was so frightened by the violence that she lost her reason and threatened to kill people with an ax. 

When the 3 a.m. train came through, some Chinese bought tickets and headed for Portland, Oregon. Later, when the morning freight train came, the engineer said "Put 'em aboard. I'll take 'em to Portland!" For several days, forlorn Chinese stragglers could be seen walking the tracks southward. As Lum May said, "It was a sad spectacle." 

After the expulsion, the 27 key ringleaders of the event were arrested and taken to the Vancouver Barracks. They were prosecuted but never convicted. Some years later, the United States Government paid an indemnity of over $424,000 to the Chinese government for all damages to Chinese in the United States in numerous anti-Chinese incidents, including those in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington; Rock Springs, Wyoming; and elsewhere. 

What became known as "The Tacoma Method" was successful, but Tacoma lost in the end. The city lost productive Chinese residents who could have contributed much to the wider community. There were no Chinese again in Tacoma until the 1920s, for they were discouraged for decades from coming to town and Tacomans actively campaigned not to allow Chinese to locate here."

Lorraine Hildebrand ended her 1992 summary of the expulsion with words that look ahead, not back: "Now, the community is in the process of creating a park to reconcile this event and to provide a lesson for future generations--to welcome future Asian citizens to Tacoma." 

Tacoma Expulsion


How is what happened to the Chinese similar to what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust in WWII?

How is it similar to how the American government treated Native Americans?

Using the Triple Venn Diagram, compare the Los Angeles Massacre, The Rock Springs Riot and the Tacoma Expulsion.
Triple Venn Diagram




169 U.S. 649

United States v. Wong Kim Ark

No. 18 Argued: March 5, 8, 1897 --- Decided: March 28, 1898
A child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States, by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution,

All person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

This was a writ of habeas corpus issued October 2, 1895, by the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California to the collector of customs at the port of San Francisco, in behalf of Wong Kim Ark, who alleged that he was a citizen of the United States, of more than twenty-one years of age, and was born at San Francisco in 1873 of parents of Chinese descent and subjects of the Emperor of China, but domiciled residents at San Francisco, and that, on his return to the United States on the steamship Coptic in August, 1895, from a temporary visit to China, he applied to said collector of customs for permission to land, and was by the collector refused such permission, and was restrained of his liberty by the collector, and by the general manager of the steamship company acting under his direction, in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States, not by virtue of any judicial order or proceeding, but solely upon the pretence that he was not a citizen of the United States.

At the hearing, the District Attorney of the United States was permitted to intervene in behalf of the United States in opposition to the writ, and stated the grounds of his intervention in writing as follows:

That, as he is informed and believes, the said person in [p650] whose behalf said application was made is not entitled to land in the United States, or to be or remain therein, as is alleged in said application, or otherwise.

Because the said Wong Kim Ark, although born in the city and county of San Francisco, State of California, United States of America, is not, under the laws of the State of California and of the United States, a citizen thereof, the mother and father of the said Wong Kim Ark being Chinese persons and subjects of the Emperor of China, and the said Wong Kim Ark being also a Chinese person and a subject of the Emperor of China.

Because the said Wong Kim Ark has been at all times, by reason of his race, language, color and dress, a Chinese person, and now is, and for some time last past has been, a laborer by occupation.

That the said Wong Kim Ark is not entitled to land in the United States, or to be or remain therein, because he does not belong to any of the privileged classes enumerated in any of the acts of Congress, known as the Chinese Exclusion Acts, [*] which would exempt him from the class or classes which are especially excluded from the United States by the provisions of the said acts.

Wherefore the said United States Attorney asks that a judgment and order of this honorable court be made and entered in accordance with the allegations herein contained, and that the said Wong Kim Ark be detained on board of said vessel until released as provided by law, or otherwise to be returned to the country from whence he came, and that such further order be made as to the court may seem proper and legal in the premises.

The case was submitted to the decision of the court upon the following facts agreed by the parties:

That the said Wong Kim Ark was born in the year 1873, at No. 751 Sacramento Street, in the city and county of San Francisco, State of California, United States of America, and [p651] that his mother and father were persons of Chinese descent and subjects of the Emperor of China, and that said Wong Kim Ark was and is a laborer.

That, at the time of his said birth, his mother and father were domiciled residents of the United States, and had established and enjoyed a permanent domicil and residence therein at said city and county of San Francisco, State aforesaid.

That said mother and father of said Wong Kim Ark continued to reside and remain in the United States until the year 1890, when they departed for China.

That during all the time of their said residence in the United States as domiciled residents therein, the said mother and father of said Wong Kim Ark were engaged in the prosecution of business, and were never engaged in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China.

That ever since the birth of said Wong Kim Ark, at the time and place hereinbefore stated and stipulated, he has had but one residence, to-wit, a residence in said State of California, in the United States of America, and that he has never changed or lost said residence or gained or acquired another residence, and there resided claiming to be a citizen of the United States.

That, in the year 1890 the said Wong Kim Ark departed for China upon a temporary visit and with the intention of returning to the United States, and did return thereto on July 26, 1890, on the steamship Gaelic, and was permitted to enter the United States by the collector of customs upon the sole ground that he was a native-born citizen of the United States.

That after his said return, the said Wong Kim Ark remained in the United States, claiming to be a citizen thereof, until the year 1894, when he again departed for China upon a temporary visit, and with the intention of returning to the United States, and did return thereto in the month of August, 1895, and applied to the collector of customs to be permitted to land, and that such application was denied upon the sole ground that said Wong in Ark was not a citizen of the United States. [p652]

That said Wong Kim Ark has not, either by himself or his parents acting for him, ever renounced his allegiance to the United States, and that he has never done or committed any act or thing to exclude him therefrom.

The court ordered Wong Kim Ark to be discharged, upon the ground that he was a citizen of the United States. 1 Fed.Rep. 382. The United States appealed to this court, and the appellee was admitted to bail pending the appeal.

United States v. Wong Kim Ark

When was the court case?

How long did it take before there was a verdict?

What does the 14th Amendment say about persons born in the United States?

Where was Wong Kim Ark born?

Where were his parents born?

At what point was Wong Kim Ark questioned about his citizenship?

Why was he not allowed to re-enter the United States?

What is the argument given by the District Attorney that denies Ark his citizenship? List at least 3 of his points.

The Supreme Court looked at the facts to determine its verdict. What were the 8 facts given?

Based on those facts, do you think he was or was not a citizen? Explain.

What did the Supreme Court decide?

Why do you think the DA argued the case in the first place?

When parents come to America from another country to have their baby, should that baby born in the United States automatically be a citizen? Explain.

In your opinion, should race be considered when determining citizenship in the United States?

Writing Prompt
The rights of juveniles are not the same as adults, just as the rights of Chinese immigrants were not the same as others living in America. Think of some issues facing juveniles today. Do you see any court cases in the future? (examples—gay/lesbian rights, dress codes, freedom of speech) Explain.

Lesson 3
California Content Standard: 11.4.1

CCCSS: Reading 2, Writing 2, 4

Objective: Students will understand the Open Door Policy.
Materials Used:

Website article

Into the Lesson

Strikes, Lay-offs and a depression around 1899. Writing prompt

Through the Content
Handout on the Open Door Policy including questions
Handout on the Boxer Rebellion history, including a political cartoon and questions
Handout 2011 Political Cartoon, Latino immigration with questions

Writing Prompt

Around 1899, many businesses were closing and laying-off workers. At the same time, workers were striking for better wages. Women were struggling for equal rights and the right to vote. A Depression (a time when the Economy is bad) was beginning. How would what was going on in the United States affect Chinese Immigration?


The Open Door Policy

Foreign Affairs, 1899

China was in political and economic disarray as the end of the 19th century approached. The giant was not recognized as a sovereign nation by the major powers, who were busy elbowing one another for trading privileges and plotting how the country could be partitioned. The imperial nations sought spheres of influence and claimed extraterritorial rights in China.

The United States took Far Eastern matters more seriously after the Spanish-American War, when they came into possession of the Philippines. In the fall of 1898, President McKinley stated his desire for the creation of an "open door" that would allow all trading nations access to the Chinese market. The following year, Secretary of State John Hay sought a formal endorsement of the concept by circulating diplomatic notes among the major powers, enabling the secretary to be credited with authoring the Open Door policy.

Hay’s proposal for an Open Door Policy called for the establishment of equal trading rights to all nations in all parts of China and for recognition of Chinese territorial integrity (meaning that the country should not be carved up). The impact of such an Open Door Policy would be to put all of the imperial nations on an equal footing and minimize the power of those nations with existing spheres of influence.

No nation formally agreed to Hay’s policy; each used the other nations' reluctance to endorse the Open Door as an excuse for their own inaction. An undeterred Hay simply announced that agreement had been reached. Only Russia and Japan voiced displeasure.

On the surface, it appeared that the United States had advanced a reform viewpoint, but the truth was otherwise. The U.S. had no sphere of influence in China, but had long maintained an active trade there. If other nations were to partition China, the United States would likely be excluded from future commercial activities. In short, Hay was simply trying to protect the prospects of American businessmen and investors.

Challenges to the Open Door policy would be mounted frequently in the ensuing years, including the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in which Chinese nationalists resorted to armed opposition in an attempt to end foreign occupation of their country; Japanese incursions into Manchuria following the Russo-Japanese War; and the "21 Demands" levied by Japan on China in 1915.

An effort was made to shore up the Open Door in 1921-22 at the Washington Naval Conference, but a challenge was again mounted by the Japanese in the 1930s as they expanded their control in Manchuria.

China would not be recognized as a sovereign state until after World War II.

The Open Door Policy


Why was it easy for other countries to lay claim to Chinese territory?

What nation in Asia did the U.S. take over in 1898?

Who was President at that time?

According to the president, what would an “open door” do?
Who actually wrote the Open Door Policy?

List the 2 parts of the policy.

Why did the United States want this policy?
List the 3 challenges against the policy.

Define “irony” (see Glossary).

At the same time that the United States is pushing the Open Door Policy, the U.S. is excluding the Chinese from entering America. Why is that ironic?


The Boxers

Uncle Sam (to the obstreperous Boxer). "I occasionally do a little boxing myself."

This Harper's Weekly cartoon by W. A. Rogers encourages an aggressive American military reaction to the Boxer Rebellion in China. A determined Uncle Sam has donned two naval ships as boxing gloves, provoking the Chinese rebel, whose knife drips with blood, into a wide-eyed grimace of fear.

The shock of Japan's defeat of China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 spurred the Chinese government to initiate reforms and open itself to Western influence. However, the Empress Dowager, Tz'u-hsi, and many other Chinese favored traditional ways, so the reforms were only implemented in one province. The Western powers took advance of this period of turmoil to carve up China into their own spheres of influence. The United States only gained a foothold in Asia with the acquisition of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War of 1898, so was in a weaker position in China. In response to European expansion there, President William McKinley and Secretary of State John Hay formulated the Open Door policy (1899), which insisted that trade barriers not be erected by the European nations and that the territorial integrity of China be maintained.

uncle sam (to the obstreperous boxer-

Resentment of foreign intervention crystallized in the establishment of I-ho ch'üan (Righteous and Harmonious Fists), called Boxers in the West because of their belief that mystical boxing rituals protected them from bullets. The Boxers were primarily a religious society that initially focused its wrath on Christian missionaries and Chinese converts to the Western religion. Their agenda soon expanded into the eradication of all foreign presence and influence in China, and they attracted strong backing in Northern China, which had been devastated by floods and drought.

In 1898, the Boxers led a rebellion in Shantung province and soon gained adherents in the Chinese capital of Peking (Beijing). The ruling Manchu court was ambivalent about the movement, pleased by its anti-foreign drive but concerned about its destabilizing affect on China, and took a neutral stance at first. However, by the spring of 1900, the Ch'ing administration gave its secret blessing to the Boxers. In early June, an international force of 2000 sailed from Tientsin to Peking, where the Boxers were burning foreign property and killing foreign nationals and Chinese Christians. Meanwhile, the Empress Tz'u-hsi declared war on the foreign powers.

As associates ran McKinley's reelection campaign, the president and his foreign policy advisors crafted America's response to the Boxer Rebellion. The administration preferred the United States to act independently, but circumstances soon prodded McKinley to order the American military commander in China, Rear Admiral Louis Kempff, to "act in concurrence with other powers so as to protect all American interests." In late June 1900, McKinley transferred 2500 American soldiers from the Philippines, where they were suppressing an uprising against American control, to China. The troop dispatch sparked criticism from American politicians (mainly Democrats) and editors who charged the president with imperialism and exceeding his Constitutional authority. McKinley believed a president's Constitutional war powers granted him such authority.


Why did the Americans care what was going on in China (see “Open Door Policy” if you’ve forgotten)?

Who were the Boxers?

Why were they called that?

What were they protesting?

According to artist W. A. Roger’s cartoon, how did Rogers want the United States to handle the Boxer Rebellion? How do you know that?

How did President McKinley want to handle the Rebellion? What did he instead eventually do?

Were the Boxers successful? Explain.

In your opinion, should McKinley have gotten US troops involved? Why/why not?

What is your opinion of President Obama’s decision to currently have troops in the Middle East?


2011 Immigration Political cartoon



Define Jim Crow laws (glossary).

Give 2 examples of the laws.

Currently, the United States and Mexico have a treaty to allow free trade between the 2 countries. According to the above cartoon, does the United States want immigrants from Mexico?
How is that ironic?

What do Jim Crow laws have to do with Latino immigrants?

What percentage of Americans do you think agree with this cartoon? Explain.

Should American taxpayers have to pay for all students, legal or not, to go to school? Explain.

Lesson 4
California State Standard: 11.5.2

CCCSS: Writing 7

Objective: Students will know the laws regarding school and immigrant students.
Materials Used:

Into the Lesson

Writing Prompt: Should students be allowed to go to any school that they want to attend?
Through the Content
Article on the history of Segregated Schools for the Chinese in America. Questions

Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt
Should students be allowed to go to any school that they want to attend? Explain

What if it was in a different city?

History of Segregated Schools for the Chinese in California

An 1880 California Education law required the admission of “all children” to the public schools, without regard to race. The 1885 law copied below modified that by authorizing (but not requiring) school districts to establish segregated schools for Chinese or Mongolian (including Japanese) students. The 1893 law expanded that authorization by adding American Indians as another racial group that school districts could teach in segregated schools. Notice that authorization to segregate African American students was not included in these two laws.


1885: Amendment to Political Code section 1662, establishing separate schools for children of Mongolian and Chinese descent.

Every school, unless otherwise provided by law, must be open for the admission of all children between six and twenty-one years of age residing in the district; and the Board of Trustees, or City Board of Education, have power to admit adults and children not residing in the district, whenever good reasons exist therefor. Trustees shall have the power to exclude children of filthy or vicious habits, or children suffering from contagious or infectious diseases, and also to establish separate schools for children of Mongolian or Chinese descent. When such separate schools are established, Chinese or Mongolian children must not be admitted into any other schools.

1893: Amendment to Political Code section 1662, adding Indian children to the list of children for whom separate schools may be established.
Every school, unless otherwise provided by law, must be open for the admission of all children between six and twenty-one years of age residing in the district; and the Board of Trustees, or City Board of Education, have power to admit adults and children not residing in the district, whenever good reasons exist therefor. Trustees shall have the power to exclude children of filthy or vicious habits, or children suffering from contagious or infectious diseases, and also to establish separate schools for Indian children and for children of Mongolian or Chinese descent. When such separate schools are established, Indian, Chinese, or Mongolian children must not be admitted into any other school; provided, that in cities and towns in which the kindergarten has been adopted, or may hereafter be adopted, as part of the public primary schools, children may be admitted to such kindergarten classes at the age of four years.


1896.“Plessy v. Ferguson”, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled that it was constitutionally okay to provide racially segregated facilities.

Following passage of the 14th Amendment, which said that all persons were entitled to equal protection under the law regardless of race, many states, including California, began racially segregating their facilities. Non-white persons would be served, if they must, but they would be served in separate facilities.

In the Plessy case linked above, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated facilities were okay as long as the separate facilities were equal. This federal ruling permitting racial segregation would remain in effect until 1954.


1947.Westminster v. Mendez, a court ruling that affirmed California school districts’ right to run segregated schools for Indian and Asian students, but not for Mexican American students.

In 1946, Gonzalo Mendez and several other Mexican American parents sued five school districts in Orange County, including the Westminster School District, because they denied their children admission to the white schools, and instead required them to attend segregated schools for children of Mexican ancestry. The school districts argued that it was their right, under both federal court rulings and California law, to operate racially segregated schools.

In 1947, the Ninth Circuit Court agreed that California school districts could operate racially segregated schools. However, it also ruled that both federal court rulings and California statutes only allowed the segregation of children “belonging to one or another of the great races of mankind”. They did not permit segregation of children “within one of the great races”.
California school districts could continue to segregate American Indian and Asian students, but they could not segregate Mexican American students from other white students.
The landmark Mendezcase (see earlier document in list) had subjected California’s long history of operating racially segregated schools to considerable public scrutiny and debate. Thus, later in 1947, legislation was introduced to repeal all racial segregation authority from California Education Codes. This “Anderson Bill” passed in the legislature and was signed into law by California Governor Earl Warren.
This law ended state-approved racially segregated schools in California. However, it did not end racially segregated schools, per se. Schools that served predominantly white students or predominantly non-white students remained common across California.
The repeal of the state’s formal education segregation laws did reframe the debate over equal education for children of all races. What would it mean to provide “equal education” in schools that were attended by students that came from school attendance neighborhoods that were racially segregated? What would it mean to provide “equal education” to students of all races when non-white communities experienced other forms of social and economic discrimination outside of the schools? What responsibilities would a school district or the state have to racially desegregate the schools, or to overcome the debilitating consequences of poverty and discrimination faced by many non-white families?


1954.Brown v. Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated schools were “inherently unequal” and therefore unconstitutional.

The link above goes to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. This ruling overturned the Court’s 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson which had decided that racially “separate but equal” facilities were allowed under the U.S. Constitution. The Brown decision ruled that segregated schools were “inherently unequal” and therefore violated students’ constitutional rights. [The Supreme Court’s decision was written by Earl Warren, the former California governor—see above]

Because racial segregation was deeply rooted in American culture, things were very slow to change following the Brown decision. After decades of legal resistance and violence, large-scale school desegregation eventually came to much of American education.  However, the complex debate related to the issue of equal education, as well as the legislative and judicial maneuverings triggered by the Brown decision, are still with us to this day. 


What did the laws of 1885 say about schools? List 3 facts.
Plessy v. Ferguson allowed schools to legally do what? Which institution okayed the law?
In Mendez v. Westminster, which groups rights were upheld? Which groups were still discriminated against?
What was the name of the court case that outlawed segregated schools?
What kind of personality characteristics do you think Earl Warren had?

How did these new laws change education for Chinese students?

In your experience and observation, are students treated equally in school?

Create a timeline showing the history of school segregation in California.



Writing Prompt
Are all public schools equal? Explain.

Are students treated equally in public schools? Explain.

Lesson 6
California State Standard: 11.5.2

CCCSS: Reading 2, 7 Writing 4,9

Objective: Students will see how new Immigration acts affected the Chinese immigrants and Americans.
Materials Used:


Through the Content
Chinese Immigration timeline and assignment
Angel Island Excerpt and essay prompt

Scoring Rubric included

Sing Sheng wanted to move into a white neighborhood—Handout and questions

Student Friendly

Scoring Guide—Essay

Score: 4  The essay-

     Clearly completed all parts of the writing assignment.

     Clearly states the thesis*; organization and focus are consistent throughout assignment.

     Uses thoughtful examples and specific details to support the topic and thesis* statement.

     Uses a variety of sentence types and precise, descriptive language.

     Clearly written for the intended reader.

     Contains few mistakes in punctuation, grammar and spelling; revised in first draft.
Score: 3 The essay-

     Includes all steps of the writing assignment.

     Gives a point of view (thesis* statement) on the topic, stays on the topic, and is organized.

     Uses several examples and details to support the main idea and thesis*.

     Uses several sentence types with some descriptive vocabulary.

     Addresses the reader.

     Has some punctuation, grammar and spelling mistakes, but is easily understood.
Score: 2  The essay-

     Covers only parts of the writing assignment.

     May have a main idea or thesis statement, but wanders off topic; order of events may be


     May support the thesis* statement, but more details and examples are needed.

     Uses short basic sentences and limited descriptive vocabulary.

     Has little or no awareness of the reader.

     Has errors in punctuation, grammar and spelling that may make it difficult for the reader

to understand.
Score: 1    The essay-

     Talks about only one part of the task.

     Wanders away from topic, is unorganized, has no main point or thesis statement.

     Does not use examples or details to support ideas.

     Uses sentences that sound alike and are missing descriptive words.

     Has no awareness of the reader.

     Has many punctuation, grammar and spelling mistakes that make it difficult for the

reader to understand.


Asian Pacific Americans and Immigration Law

After each section of information, write how the law affected Chinese Immigrants.

1844 Treaty established formal relations with China, allowing Chinese to travel to America to work

1862 An act to protect free White labor against competition from Chinese labor and to discourage the immigration of the Chinese into California

1868 Burlingame-Seward Treaty The US and China agreed to trade, travel and residence rights for each other’s citizens; still prohibited naturalization (glossary)

1878 Chinese ineligible for naturalized citizenship

1880 Sino-American Treaty The Chinese government said they would prohibit Chinese people from going to the US in exchange for protection from the US for the immigrants already in America

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited immigration of Chinese workers for 10 years; prohibited naturalization

1884 Increased restrictions on Chinese workers in the US—wives not allowed; anti-miscegenation laws (glossary)

1888 Scott Act prohibited immigration of virtually all Chinese, including those that had left the US for a visit to China and wanted to return to America

1889 Chae Cahn Ping v. United States Supreme Court ruled that an entire race could be barred from entry into the US if it seemed that the group would not assimilate (glossary)

1892 Geary Act extended exclusion of Chinese workers another 10 years; stripped legal rights; required immigrants to carry legal papers

1894 Immigration officers authorized to ban the entry of Chinese

1894 Gresham-Yang Treaty China agreed to total prohibition of immigration to the US in exchange for re-entry for those that had left the US to visit China. Did away with Scott Act

1898 United States v. Wong Kim Art Supreme Court ruled that any person born in the United States, even with Chinese parents, was an American

1900 “United States v. Mrs. Cue Lim Supreme Court ruled that wives and children of Chinese businessmen were allowed into the US

1902 Exclusion of Chinese workers extended another 10 years

1910 Angel Island opened as an immigration station, it served as a prison for Chinese immigrants

1921 National Origin System-Immigration Act The US started setting a number of how many people could enter the US from individual countries

1922 Cable Act took away an American woman’s citizenship if she married an immigrant that could not become a naturalized citizen

1924 Johnson-Reed Act restricted all Asians from coming into the United States

1925 Chang Chan v. John Nagle—Supreme Court ruled that Chinese wives of American men were not allowed to enter the US

1925 Cheun Sumchee v. Nagle Supreme Court ruled that the Johnson-Reed Act did not apply to the wives and children of Chinese businessmen

1927 Weedin v. Chin Bow Supreme court ruled that any babies born to American parents who never lived in the US are not American and therefore are not allowed to enter

1931—Repealed Cable Act

1943 Magnuson Act repealed the exclusion of Chinese immigrants. Chinese were allowed to become American citizens. 100 Chinese immigrants allowed every year

1953-1956 Refugee Relief Act—Since China had been taken over by Communism, 2000 Chinese allowed to enter each year

1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act—gave equal amounts to all countries for immigration. 20,000 people per country; priority to those that had special skills and family in the US

1986 Amnesty (glossary) declared for certain illegal immigrants

Chapter 6: Detained on Angel Island


Chinese detainees getting tested on Angel Island. (Photo © California State Museum Resouce Center)

We arrived in high hopes but we worried about not being able to answer the many questions that the authorities were to ask us. We were scared of getting deported.

A number of Chinese people were deported back to China. For us, returning to China would be shameful. There were rumors that a few people committed suicide rather than to be sent back to China in shame.

Women and men were segregated in Angel Island, and while we were there, we were locked up in the women's barracks. The barracks had barred doors and windows. Guards wearing green uniforms stood outside and constantly watched us. Our barrack had a handful of women who came before us and were still waiting to learn their fate — would they make it into the United States or return home in shame?

Each day, we sat and waited to be called for our immigration interview. The waiting was nerve-wracking. There wasn't anything to keep us occupied. We had no books to read and no toys to play with. We didn't study the coaching papers while being detained because we had memorized the questions and answers back in our village.

Each day, we were escorted to the dining area, where we ate Chinese food. We ate rice, meat, and vegetables. We also ate bread and fruit. The food was good and was supplemented by the government.

But we were not treated kindly. The officials seldom smiled or acknowledged us. I hated the detention and I was worried that we could be deported, but I did not have to worry for long.

After a week, we had our immigration interview. We were interrogated separately. Mother was questioned for one day, my older sister Li Hong was questioned for half a day, and I was questioned for two hours. My father had to make the trip from Oakland, taking the ferry to Angel Island, where he was questioned for two days. We didn't even know he was there until later because we had no way to communicate with him!

Finally, we were released, and we were so relieved! My father was waiting for us when we got off the ferry in San Francisco, and we traveled to Oakland where we would start our new lives in Gold Mountain — our name for America.

I was so upset by my experience that for 50 years I refused to talk about Angel Island. It was not until 1985 that I was able to talk and write about it.


Li Keng Wong, 1933


Angel Island

Essay Prompt
Read the primary source excerpt from Angle Island about Chinese Immigrants. Write a 5 paragraph essay describing 3 ways how this historical account relates to your life or other times in history.
One possible structure to this essay could be:

1st paragraph: Introduction. You could start your essay by summarizing the article.

2nd paragraph: What is the first account of a time in history or your life that is similar to the Chinese immigrants? (Be Specific)

3rd paragraph: What is the second event?

4th paragraph: What is the third time?

5th paragraph: Conclusion. Summarize the main points of your essay and give the reader ONE LAST IDEA to think about, such as other times not already written about or thoughts on the future.

Keep in Mind:
Use words that are appropriate for your audience and purpose. Your teacher will be reading this.

Carefully read the question.

Organize your writing with a strong introduction, body and conclusion.

Vary your sentences to make your writing interesting to read.

Check for mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence formation.

Make sure you have at least 5 paragraphs.

A high school level paragraph includes 5-7 sentences.


TIME Magazine

February 25, 1952

The white bungalow with the pink shutters in San Francisco's Southwood subdivision was just what Sing Sheng and his family wanted. With their second baby coming soon, they needed more room than they had in their little house on Eagle Street, and Southwood was only ten minutes away from Sing's job as a mechanic for Pan American World Airways. So Sing, a 26-year-old former Chinese Nationalist intelligence officer, scraped together $2,950 for the down payment, and began buying furniture. Then he got a phone call. Their future neighbors, all white, didn't want them to move in. "I was not born in America, and I don't understand," said Sing. "I didn't know about any race prejudice at all."

Nothing Personal. Sing, a U.S. college graduate who took refuge in the U.S. when the Communists came to power in China, thought surely that a problem like this could be solved in a democracy. He asked to see some of the neighbors, and was pleased as could be when the first man who showed up was Charles H. ("Harry") Carlyle, a fellow Pan American employee. Sing and Carlyle had met at the plant, and Carlyle had fondly recalled the Chinese friends he made in China before the war. But Harry quickly made it clear that he was not on Sing's side. Nothing personal, he said, but the property owners didn't want the area overrun by non-Caucasians and the value of their homes lessened. The other neighbors added that they had clauses in their deeds forbidding sales of properties to non-Caucasians.

Sing knew that the U.S. Supreme Court had declared such clauses unenforceable. What would happen if he insisted on his rights and moved in? Well, said the neighbors, the children might be inclined to throw garbage on his lawn and break his windows. Sing said he didn't see how children would do things like that unless their parents told them to, and that hardly seemed like a good way to bring up children in a country dedicated to the principles of Washington and Lincoln.

At that point, Les Clements, construction supervisor for Williams & Burrows, Southwood home builders, stepped up to straighten out Sing's thinking. "Look," said Clements. "You've been to college and been taught to think that the U.S. is just like the America of Washington and Lincoln that they write about in history. But that's not the whole picture. There are other things to be considered, and people must stick together to protect their property rights."

"Please Vote for Us." Then Sing proposed a "democratic" way out: let the neighbors vote on whether his family should move in, and he would abide by the decision. The residents agreed, and a ballot went to every Southwood home. With great hope, Sing sent each resident a letter: "Before you reach any decision as to how you will vote in the ballot, allow us to tell you our opinion. The present world conflict is not between individual nations, but between Communism and democracy. We think so highly of democracy because it offers freedom and equality. America's forefathers fought for these principles and won the independence of 1776. We have forsaken all our beloved in China and have come to this country seeking the same basic rights. Do not make us the victims of false democracy. Please vote for us." A real-estate development company also sent out a letter to South-wood's home owners: protect your property, keep the non-Caucasians out.

Last week, in Harry Carlyle's garage, the votes were counted: 174 objected to Sing Sheng and his family; only 28 did not, 14 had no opinion.

Sing, neatly dressed in a double-breasted dark blue suit, rose to speak to the neighbors while his Chinese-American wife wept. "Thank you very much for your decision," said Sing bitterly. "I hope your property values will go up every three days."

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Sing Sheng Questions

What year did Sing Sheng try to buy a new house?

Why did he have problems buying the house he wanted?

Was it against the law for Chinese to live in White neighborhoods?

What probably would have happened if Sheng’s family had moved in?

Would his neighbors have gotten in trouble? Why/Why not?

What was the outcome of Sheng’s democratic vote of his would-be neighbors?

What was Sheng’s response?

Do you think he believed that the Whites would let him move in? Why do you think that?

Luckily, not everyone was as racial as this neighborhood. When others heard the story, he was invited to move into another neighborhood.

Lesson 7

California State Content Standard: 11.8.7

CCCSS: Reading 2 Writing 4


Students read encyclopedia entry on Jerry Yang, cofounder of Yahoo! search engine. Write summary.

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