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Herb - social history for every classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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In this activity, students use a range of primary and secondary sources about San Francisco's Chinatown (1880s-1920) to explore what the community meant to residents and to outsiders.

In this "Workingmen's Address," published in 1878, Dennis Kearney of the Workingman's Party of California appeals to racist arguments against Chinese immigrants. After excoriating the fraud, corruption, and monopolization of land by the "moneyed men"…

AsianPopTable.tiff
Despite the near-hysterical rhetoric about an "invasion" of Chinese in California and other parts of the West in the late nineteenth century, the actual numbers of Chinese and other Asians remained a tiny fraction of the total population.

This chart shows the numbers of Chinese immigrants employed in various occupations in San Francisco from 1860-1880. Although the data is incomplete, the chart shows that the vast majority of Chinese worked in menial jobs as laundry workers, servants,…

chinese boycott.png
In the 19th century, Asian Americans faced widespread hostility. In this 1898 flyer, the labor movement claimed that Asian-American workers "[lowered] standards of living and of morals." Particularly in the West, union organizers agitated for the…

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of San Francisco (commonly known as "the Six Companies") was an umbrella organization of several regional- and clan-based immigrant self-help societies in Chinatown. Such societies helped to get new…

These excerpts from a 1902 American Federation of Labor pamphlet argue for a second extension of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The pamphlet, entitled Some Reasons for Chinese Exclusion: Meat vs. Rice, alleged that the supposed willingness of…

Joss_Temple.tif
Chinese temples were often called Joss Houses. The word "joss" comes from the Portuguese term for God, Deus. Chinese immigrants in San Francisco went to temples to pray for good luck and to honor their ancestors. This photograph was most likely…

Man&2kids.tif
Lew Kan, a prominent merchant who ran canneries and a store, walks through Chinatown with his two sons. The boys' formal clothing indicates their high status. All boys and many girls attended segregated public schools in Chinatown. (One merchant…

Basket.tif
As historian John Kuo Wei Tchen notes of this portrait, "the girl's tattered clothing and gloves on both hands clearly indicate that she works hard, probably assisting her father in carrying the wicker shrimp baskets shown behind." Tchen speculates…
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