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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Chinatown's Groceries Thrive in San Francisco

San Francisco's Chinatown was a thriving commercial center for Chinese immigrants in California. By 1856, there were already thirty-three Chinese-owned groceries and general stores that sold a wide variety of goods and foodstuffs, mostly imported [...]

The Theater Draws Immigrants and Tourists to Chinatown

During the 1870s and 1880s, San Francisco's Chinatown included as many as four theater companies that regularly performed Chinese operas and other entertainment. The cost of admission to evening performances was usually 20-25 cents for Chinese (50 [...]

A Chinese Immigrant Recalls the Dangers of Railroad Work

From the 1860s to the 1880s, thousands of Chinese immigrants found work in railroad construction in the West, notably on the Central Pacific line of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which was built primarily by Chinese. The extreme danger of [...]

Diners Describe the First Chinese Restaurants in America

The first Chinese eateries in America sprang up in 1850s California and catered to Cantonese miners and railroad laborers. Known as "chow chows" (Chinese slang for anything edible), they were identified by yellow triangle signs. By the 1880s San [...]

A Railroad Titan Explains Why the Chinese are Good for White Workers

The "divide-and-conquer" tactics used by bosses pitted different ethnic groups against one another and native-born workers against all immigrants. It often worked out better for white workers than for Asians. Charles Crocker, one of the "Big Four" [...]

Growers Explain Why They Hire Immigrant Workers

Many bosses deliberately hired workers who did not share common languages or ethnic backgrounds. Here, a manager of a Hawaii sugar plantation explains this anti-labor tactic to a Honolulu commission investigating strike activity. Other growers had [...]

A Senator Calls for a More Democratic Immigration System

In the midst of debating the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which concerned the rights of all Americans, regardless of race, to become citizens and vote, Senator Charles Sumner often urged more liberal and democratic application of the law. In [...]

California Workingmen Feel Threatened by Chinese Laborers

California held a series of anti-Chinese conventions in the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. After Chinese immigration was forbidden by federal law in 1882, white laborers organized boycotts of Chinese-owned businesses and won pledges from state leaders not [...]

The Poetry of Chinese Immigration

In this activity students read poems written by Chinese immigrants to understand the hopes of and challenges faced by Chinese immigrants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Then students write an original poem about the Chinese [...]

The Poetry of Chinese Immigration worksheet

This worksheet helps student analyze poems by Chinese immigrants.

Item Type: Worksheet