U. S. History II dbq: Chinese Exclusion Act Do Now Instructions

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Name __________________________

Date: ________________

Section: 11.1 11.2 (circle one)

U. S. History II

DBQ: Chinese Exclusion Act

Do Now Instructions

a) Read the background information below, underline main ideas, and think about this question: Why did the United States pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882?

b) Write your HYPOTHESIS for why the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in the box on page 3.

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major law restricting immigration to the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law on May 6, 1882, by President Chester A. Arthur, effectively halted Chinese immigration for ten years and prohibited Chinese from becoming US citizens.

The first significant Chinese immigration to America began with the California Gold Rush of 1848-1849. During the early stages of the gold rush, when surface gold was plentiful, the Chinese were tolerated, even well received. As gold became harder to find and competition increased, animosity toward the Chinese and other foreigners increased. After being forcibly driven from the mines, most Chinese settled in enclaves in cities, mainly San Francisco, and took up low end wage labor such as restaurant work and laundry just to earn enough to live.

From 1850 to 1865, political and religious rebellions within China left 30 million dead and the country's economy in a state of collapse. Meanwhile, the timber, mining, and railroad industries on the United States' West Coast needed workers. Chinese business owners also wanted immigrants to staff their laundries, restaurants, and small factories.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the nation's first law to ban immigration by race or nationality. From 1882 until 1943, most Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the United States. All Chinese people--except travelers, merchants, teachers, students, and those born in the United States--were barred from entering the country. The few Chinese non-laborers who wished to immigrate had to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to immigrate, which tended to be difficult to prove. If people were caught bringing Chinese immigrants into the country they would be fined five hundred dollars per head that was brought in and /or imprisoned (but not for more than a year). Vessels landing on American soil could not have Chinese people on them and if they did they were not allowed leave any of them behind or let them step off the boat.

The Geary Act, passed in 1892, required Chinese aliens to carry a residence certificate with them at all times. Immigration officials and police officers even conducted spot checks and demanded that every Chinese person show these residence certificates or risk being deported.

The Act also affected Asians who had already settled in the United States. Any Chinese person who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry. The Act also made Chinese immigrants permanent aliens because it prohibited them from becoming naturalized citizens no matter how long they had legally worked in the United States.

After the Act's passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new homes. Due to intense anti-Chinese discrimination, many merchants' families remained in China while husbands and fathers worked in the United States. Since federal law allowed merchants who returned to China to register two children to come to the United States, men who were legally in the United States might sell their testimony so that an unrelated child could be sponsored for entry. To pass official interrogations, immigrants were forced to memorize coaching books which contained very specific pieces of information, such as how many water buffalo there were in a particular village. So intense was the fear of being deported that many "paper sons" kept their false names all their lives. The U.S. government only gave amnesty to these "paper families" in the 1950s.

The law was repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943 during World War II, when China was an ally in the war against Japan. Nevertheless, the 1943 act still allowed only 105 Chinese immigrants per year, reflecting persisting prejudice against the Chinese in American immigration policy. It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated previous national-origins policy, that large-scale Chinese immigration to the United States was allowed to begin again after a hiatus of over 80 years.

Chinese Immigration and Exclusion: Graphic Organizer
Why did the United States pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882?

Write your HYPOTHESES for why the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882.

STEP 2: Use the video viewing guide to take notes on the Transcontinental Railroad and Chinese immigrants.
STEP 3: Read documents A-D. For each document, ask yourself: If this document were your only piece of evidence, how would you answer this question: Why did Americans pass the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act? Fill in your document notes graphic organizer.
STEP 4: For homework, answer the following question on a separate sheet of paper using the background reading and all four primary sources: Why did Americans pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? Your response must have:

  • At least 3 paragraphs

  • A thesis statement

  • Evidence: lots of specific SRT and only ONE piece of well-chosen DRT

  • Each paragraph should have related evidence from more than 1 source

Video Viewing Guide: Transcontinental Railroad and Chinese Workers
1. Who ordered the building of the transcontinental railroad?

2. What made it such a challenge to build?

3. When would the shopkeepers first get paid for their work on the railroad?

4. What was the difficulty of “supply” that the railroad builders faced?

5. How many bridges and tunnels did Judah estimate were needed to cross the Sierra Nevada?

6. What were the two most important “supplies” needed to complete this work?

7. Why did the workers eventually leave?

8. Why did Chinese immigrants leave their homeland?

9. Why was there opposition against using Chinese laborers?

10. How were Chinese laborers different from European laborers?

11. In the summer of 1865, what did Chinese laborers help the shopkeepers accomplish?

Document A: Anti-Chinese Play, 1879

From Henry Grimm, The Chinese Must Go: A Farce in Four Acts.

San Francisco: Bancroft and Co., 1879.

Document B: Political Cartoon, 1871

Source: The cartoon was drawn by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly, a

Northern magazine. In this cartoon, we see Columbia, the feminine symbol of

the United States, protecting a Chinese man against a gang of Irish and

German thugs. At the bottom it says "Hands off-Gentlemen! America

means fair play for all men."

Document C: Workingmen of San Francisco

From “An Address from the Workingmen of San Francisco to Their Brothers Throughout the Pacific Coast,” a speech delivered August 16, 1888.

We have met here in San Francisco tonight to raise our

voice to you in warning of a great danger that seems to us

imminent, and threatens our almost utter destruction as a

prosperous community.

The danger is, that while we have been sleeping in fancied

security, believing that the tide of Chinese immigration to our

State had been checked and was in a fair way to be entirely

stopped, our opponents, the pro-China wealthy men of the

land, have been wide-awake and have succeeded in reviving

the importation of this Chinese slave-labor. So that now,

hundreds and thousands of Chinese are every week flocking

into our State.

Today, every avenue to labor, of every sort, is crowded with

Chinese slave labor worse than it was eight years ago. The

boot, shoe and cigar industries are almost entirely in their

hands. In the manufacture of men’s overalls and women’s

and children’s underwear they run over three thousand

sewing machines night and day. They monopolize nearly all

the farming done to supply the market with all sorts of

vegetables. This state of things brings about a terrible

competition between our own people, who must live as

civilized Americans, and the Chinese, who live like degraded

slaves. We should all understand that this state of things

cannot be much longer endured.

Document D: Autobiography of a Chinese Immigrant

From the testimony of Lee Chew, published in Independent magazine, 1903.

There is no reason for the prejudice against the Chinese. The cheap

labor cry was always a falsehood. Their labor was never cheap, and

is not cheap now. It has always commanded the highest market price.

But the trouble is that the Chinese are such excellent and faithful

workers that bosses will have no others when they can get them. If

you look at men working on the street you will find a supervisor for

every four or five of them. That watching is not necessary for

Chinese. They work as well when left to themselves as they do when

some one is looking at them.
It was the jealousy of laboring men of other nationalities — especially

the Irish—that raised the outcry against the Chinese. No one would

hire an Irishman, German, Englishman or Italian when he could get a

Chinese, because our countrymen are so much more honest,

industrious, steady, sober and painstaking. Chinese were persecuted,

not for their vices [sins], but for their virtues [good qualities].

There are few Chinamen in jails and none in the poor houses. There

are no Chinese tramps or drunkards. Many Chinese here have

become sincere Christians, in spite of the persecution which they

have to endure from their heathen countrymen. More than half the

Chinese in this country would become citizens if allowed to do so,

and would be patriotic Americans. But how can they make this

country their home as matters now are! They are not allowed to bring

wives here from China, and if they marry American women there is a

great outcry.
Under the circumstances, how can I call this my home, and how can

any one blame me if I take my money and go back to my village in


Document Notes Graphic Organizer


If this document were your only piece of evidence, how would you answer the question: Why did Americans pass the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act?

Document A:


Document B:

Nast cartoon

Document C:

Workingmen Speech

Document D:

Lee Chew’s Autobiography

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