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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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A Figure of Justice Protects the Chinese Immigrant

In this political cartoon from Harper's Weekly magazine, illustrator Thomas Nast portrays the figure of Columbia, a symbol of American democracy, comforting and protecting a Chinese man from a working-class immigrant mob. Nast likely created the [...]

The Chinese Immigrant is Squeezed by Both Parties

In this political cartoon, the leaders of both political parties, James Garfield of the Republicans and Winfield S. Hancock of the Democrats, squeeze the innocent Chinese immigrant between their political platforms. Because Chinese immigrants and [...]

The Wasp Serves Up Anti-Chinese Prejudice

This cartoon, published in The Wasp in 1885, asked "Is It Right for a Chinaman to Jeopard a White Man's Dinner?" The Wasp was a weekly magazine of politics and satire with lavish color illustrations. It was among the most widely read magazines on [...]

Anti-Chinese Prejudice and the "Six Companies"

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 [...]

Tables Show Chinese Labor Distribution and Wage Discrepancies in Late 19th Century San Francisco

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, [...]

Table of the Asian/Pacific Islander Population as Percentage of Total U.S. Population, 1850-1990

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.

Chinese Immigrants Write Poems in the "Wooden Barracks"

At Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, Chinese immigrants were detained for weeks or even months in the so-called "Wooden Barracks" as they awaited processing. Faced with poor conditions, humiliating treatment, and homesickness, [...]

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 [...]

Rock Springs Massacre Victims Plead for Justice

Even in the late nineteenth-century American West, a notably violent region, the violence directed against Chinese immigrants was shocking. The Union Pacific Railroad employed 331 Chinese and 150 whites in their coal mine in Rock Springs, Wyoming. [...]

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 [...]