San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1880

A primary source by Workingmen's Party of California

Workingmen’s Party of California, “Chinatown declared a nuisance!” 188This Workingmen’s Party of California pamphlet, which is representative of widespread anti-immigration sentiment, attacks President Ulysses S. Grant and calls San Francisco’s Chinatown “rampant with disease.” On May 8, 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act—the only immigration law in the United States history that targeted a specific country. The act suspended immigration from China to the United States and prevented Chinese who were already in America from going home and reentering the country, effectively stranding thousands of Chinese men and women in the United States. However, between 1882 and 1943, when the act was repealed, tens of thousands of Chinese came to America illegally. Chinatown, lantern slide by Arnold Genthe, ca. 1896. (Library of Congress)

The photograph by Arnold Genthe depicts San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest in the United States, as a crowded but vibrant turn-of-the-century community where immigrants owned their own businesses, raised families, and established schools.





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