Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a slave (New York: Penguin Books, 2012). (461)

McClain, Charles. “California’s First Anti-Chinese Laws” and “Conclusion”. In

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McClain, Charles. “California’s First Anti-Chinese Laws” and “Conclusion”. In In Search of Equality: the Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994) 9-23 & 277-283. (31)

The struggle for social power between races has been an issue in American history as far back as history books grant the public. Charles McClain’s excerpt from his book In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America chronicles a time and struggle which is just that. The Gold Rush period is well know for its influx of people and the kick start to the formation of California as a state, as it “welcomed” Anglo-American’s from the East, as well as the Chinese from the farther East. The great migration of the Chinese to California was at the dismay of settles already in the state, as “[Chinese] worked too heard…saved too much, and spent too little”, overall making White settlers look bad182. Because of the number of Chinese settlers, as well s the fact that they would work for cheaper than Anglo settlers, conflict arose regarding everything from citizenship to land allotment to monetary wages. Perhaps most interesting in these conflicts though, was the Chinese’ ability to exercise their legal rights against any infractions set upon them by Anglo settlers – as Natives and African Americans were not completely granted this luxury. As McClain states, the Chinese “in California, and increasingly elsewhere in the nation,…continued to bring cases aimed at modifying official policies or practices”183. The cases brought about by the Chinese were interesting in their own right, but when highlighted by California and the United States’ ideals of citizenship and the “Land of Opportunity” it is easy to draw some parallels to the legislative process now versus then. McClain highlights, though he could easily delve into much further, that the Chinese “understood perfectly well the ways in which they were being singled out for invidious treatment, resented this fact …and resisted it at every turn” – an interesting idea upon consideration of the empire which they immigrated from184. One cannot deny the impact that minority groups had upon the Gold Rush, women included, so it would be interesting to theorize what the effect of this period would have had on sexuality, race, gender, etc. were it not for these groups.

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