History Timeline (Assignment for Immigration Class, I’m sure will be edited. I do not consider myself done.)
May 6 – The Chinese Exclusion Act is the first significant law that restricts immigration into the U.S.
The following artwork (line art?) is from a Danish immigrant newspaper called the, Bien. It is written exclusively in Danish. This photo is from April 21, 1882. I asked a Danish friend to transcribe the article for me. He discovered that the text all around the artwork is about a man who went fishing in Lake Winnebago. My friend said the story is boring!
I was disappointed that there was no text about this photo or about what prompted why it went into the public. I almost tossed the photo and started looking elsewhere.
And then I realized — This paper was published in San Francisco just before the Chinese Exclusion Act was made into law. The Chinese people had a huge presence in San Francisco and Northern California. Even back then there was a China town section in San Francisco.
So, at the very least one can look at the photo and interpret what it is trying to say with history being used to place it in context. The Chinese started coming over to the US in 1848. They were allowed in only as laborers. In 1868, The Burlington Treaty specifically allowed open immigration from China to America. But, less than 20 years later came the Chinese Exclusion Act.
When this artwork was published the Chinese were victims of “sustained” violence and other abuses. Including racism where the “natives” (not Indians) thought themselves quite superior and justified their behavior based on their very poor assumptions about who the Chinese were and how smart they really were.
When I look at this artwork, I am sad to see that the Danish people see the Chinese this way. Everyone in the picture looks male to me. We are primarily people who are laborers is what I surmise. China Town already looks crowded from the looks of the buildings. A reflection of how our culture put people in their place in terms of housing. The same happened to the Jewish in New York. The fact that it was printed at all without some text with it – I think shows how much talk there is about the impending new law. And the attitudes that the new immigrants, the Danish, have picked up on the attitudes of “white” people at the time.
(Chinese Historical Society)
The Bien, From the Danish Museum Digital Newspaper Vault