The Chinese Exclusion Act

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

About PeggyAnn

Professional PC Consultant, Researcher, & avid people watcher, Peggy Ann Rowe started into her genealogical quest at age 15 after watching the mini-series, "Roots" with her parents. This new obsession has fueled her love of history, & study of cultures & societies in every epoch. Today she is 57 years old with four kids who are all grown up (& all have flown the coop). In between her 'gigs' with clients she volunteered at many different non-profits. Former President, Secretary, and Director at Large on the board of the Douglas County Historical Society for 10+ years, and former Secretary at the Cloverdale Historical Society (Sonoma County) for nearly 10 years. This website is an attempt to share the knowledge she has gained about her family ties with others who may be interested in the same things. She does not guarantee 100% accuracy and does hope that you will send corrections. To learn more about her, click the "about" button in the page menu. Thanks! Another goal of this website is to disseminate a message (i.e. education) about domestic violence, child abuse, and all forms of sexual abuse to society at large. The message comes from real experience from the whole spectrum of the violence from sexual abuse by a perpetrator to sexual abuse perpetrated by a husband, to the abuse of children within the family. Peggy has seen it, lived it, and been hurt by it. There will on occasion be details that might be hard for some people to read, and a warning is usually posted at the beginning of the essay so that those who want to turn and not read may do so. The only way to teach and to let others learn what to avoid is to SHARE what happened with every detail necessary to make the point. Thank you.
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