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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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A California Businessman Contracts for Chinese Immigrant Labor

This labor contract between a Chinese worker, "Affon," and California businessman Jacob P. Leese, was made in Hong Kong on July 28, 1849, and witnessed by A. Shue, C. H. Brinley, and Henry Anthon, Jr., acting U.S. Vice Consul in Hong Kong. The [...]

An American-Born Chinese Man Complies with the Chinese Exclusion Act

Wong Kim Ark, a Chinese-American born in San Francisco, was required under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to acquire this Certificate of Registration before leaving the country on an 1894 trip to China so that he would be allowed back into the [...]

A Would-Be Immigrant is Excluded for Being a Potential "Public Charge"

This memorandum records the recommendations of the Immigration Service Commissioner of the District Office of San Francisco regarding the fate of Samuel Kaplan, a would-be immigrant from Russia. The Commissioner upholds a previous ruling by the [...]

The U.S. Department of Labor Recruits Workers from Puerto Rico

The United States acquired the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in 1898 after its victory in the Spanish-American War. After a period of limited local autonomy, the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans American citizenship in 1917. The arrival of large, [...]

"Poor Pat Must Emigrate"

A.W. Auner of Philadelphia was among the most prolific printers of "broadside ballads," cheaply-produced topical songs and poems that were widely available throughout the nineteenth century. "Poor Pat Must Emigrate," published by Auner sometime in [...]

"No Irish Need Apply"

The Irish often faced discrimination when seeking jobs upon their arrival in the United States. Although historians have been hard-pressed to identify an actual sign bearing the notorious legend "No Irish Need Apply," contemporary newspaper [...]

Congress Passes the First Immigration Law

In March 1790, the newly-formed Congress passed a law establishing the rules for becoming a citizen. Under the law, only "free white persons" who had been in the United States for at least two years were eligible for citizenship, thus excluding free [...]

San Francisco and California Pass Anti-Chinese Laws, 1858-1913

The playing field in the U.S. was not level for all immigrant groups. Chinese immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced a host of laws that restricted their freedom to emigrate, earn a living, and follow their native [...]

The U.S. Supreme Court Rules in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark

In 1895, Wong Kim Ark returned to San Francisco, the city of his birth, from a trip to China. Customs officials denied him re-entry to the country and detained him, claiming that he was not a citizen; because of the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in [...]

The United States Bars Chinese Immigrants (with text supports)

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed on May 6, 1882, was the first major restriction placed on immigration in the U.S., and the only immigration law that explicitly barred a specific group from entering the country. The Exclusion Act forbade Chinese [...]

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