Anti-Chinese Riots Happening in Washington State

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Anti-Chinese Riots Happening in Washington State

In the last decades of the 19th century, anti-Asian backlash fueled by high unemployment which increased resentment against Asian settlers, anti-Asian legislation, and growing nativism, erupted into violent riots in Washington State.

Throughout the 1880s, thousands of Chinese laborers were especially targeted for murder, assault, and forced evacuation all across the state. The reasoning behind and the implications of these acts of violence and exclusionist policies were the same all over the West Coast and almost everywhere Asians settled. In cities such as Seattle and Tacoma, where much of the anti-Asian sentiments were manifested, the effects of the early Asian American history are still evident, even if the events are widely unacknowledged.

Laborers from all across Asia journeyed to the Pacific Northwest, in search of fortune and freedom. Push factors such as war, famine, and restricted civil liberties in their homelands drove thousands of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino citizens to the other side of the Pacific. Although all these groups contributed widely to the growth of the Washington Territory, and later, state, it was the Chinese who settled first and in the largest numbers.

By the 1860s when news of the discovery of gold in Eastern Washington had reached the distant shores of China, the Chinese were suffering from severe civil unrest and even famine. However, it was the heavy tolls of unproductive harvests at home, and heavy recruitment by railroad and logging firms abroad, that attracted most of the Chinese to Washington. By the 1870s, Chinese men were already at work prospecting along the Columbia River in Eastern Washington, working in Black Diamond, ...

... middle of paper ... (in the case of Tacoma, physically) from accomplishing contributing even more. Chin Chun Hook created what is now Seattle's International District, from one general goods store in 1868 (Chen 152). I can only wonder what other International Districts there would be in Washington, if so much had not been taken away by the violence of the 1880s and '90s.

Works Cited

Chen, Jack. The Chinese of America. San Francisco: Harper and Row Publishing Co., 1980.

Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. The Chinese Experience in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

The Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington Department of History, and Matthew W. Klingle. A History Burst With Telling: Asian Americans in Washington State. University of Washington. 24, October 1998.

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