In 1852, there were over 20,000 Chinese immigrants living in California (Franks). Americans reacted very negatively to this influx, and their negative sentiments were made apparent in the California Supreme Court’s People v. Hall verdict, which rendered Chinese testimony unreliable. Then, in 1882, President Chester Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law that prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the United States (Foner, 651). From the 1850s up to the Exclusion Act of 1882, Americans felt increasingly negative sentiments towards the Chinese. As illustrated through newspaper and magazine depictions along the Pacific Coast, the Americans perceived the Chinese as inferior and menacing and they felt threatened and invaded by their large numbers.
In the image “Chinese Candy Man” from Harper’s Magazine, a Chinese man is depicted selling “rock canuy” to white children. This image illustrates how Americans viewed the Chinese as an intellectually inferior race. The Chinese man’s alleged skin tone is a very important feature because his skin is black. The skin tone illustrates how the Americans viewed the Chinese as an inferior race by categorizing them with blacks; in their eyes, the Chinese were subordinate like the slaves. The People vs. Hall verdict also reinforced this categorization: the California Supreme Court ruled that a white man could not be convicted on the testimony of a Chinese witness. Black slaves did not have the right to testify in court; this restriction was now being applied to Chinese people as well. This verdict claimed that they were intellectually unreliable and inferior to the proper white man, which is also shown in the illustrated Chinese ...
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...ng with the first picture, it also depicts the Chinese as menacing and conniving people. These negative sentiments are also reinforced by events that occurred during the time, such as the previously mentioned Seclusion Act and the People v Hall trial. They also degrade the Chinese man by depicting him as a crawling creature and by categorizing them with the black slaves.
Franks, Joel. "The "Orient," Hawaii and Antebellum US to 1860." 29 Nov. 2011. Lecture.
“The Chinese Candy Man.” 1868. [database on-line] (The Chinese in California, accessed 2 December 2011) ; available http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/award99/cubhtml/cichome.html, image ID cubcic brk5353.
“Amusing the Child.” 1882. [database on-line] (The Chinese in California, accessed 2 December 2011) ; available http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/award99/cubhtml/cichome.html, image ID cubcic brk1522.
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