Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 8: Who's Land is This?
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A Chinese Laundry
Segment 5
Know-Nothing People


Between 1849, when gold was discovered in California, and 1882, about 300,000 Chinese emigrated to America. For many of them, America represented the golden land of opportunity. One of them was a man with the name of Xu. He said: "Talk about going to the land of the Flowery Flag made my face fill with happiness. With hard work pieces of gold were gathered together. Words of farewell were said to the parents, and my throat choked up. Parting from the wife, many tears flowed face to face."

In 1882, there were just over fifty million people in the United States, so 300,000 was a small part of the total. But that didn't matter to the haters. Angered that the Chinese were willing to work hard for very low wages, mobs attacked and killed Chinese people. And fearful of the Chinese for their dark skins and different customs, hoodlums burned Chinese homes and laundries Check The Source - "Lynching the Chinese": P.S. Dorney's Account, October 28, 1871. Even children participated in the violence. Novelist Bret Harte wrote an obituary for a Chinese man named Wan Lee: "Dead, my revered friends, dead. Stoned to death in the streets of San Francisco, in the year of grace 1869, by a mob of half grown boys and Christian school children Check The Source - A Pro-Chinese Editorial: Joseph McDonnell in The Labor Standard, June 30, 1878."

In the 1870s the Workingmen's Party demanded a law to end Chinese immigration. Congressmen in the East, needing political support from Californians, helped pass that law. In 1882, American racists got the Chinese Exclusion Act passed Check The Source - The Chinese Exclusion Act: May 6, 1882. It stopped most Chinese immigration into the United States. Hardly anyone cared that the Chinese had built railroads, dug mines, and labored on farms, and even brought an opera on tour.


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Did You Know?
Back in 1852, when Andrew Johnson ran for governor, the Know-Nothing Party was whipping up anti-Catholic feeling in Tennessee, where most people were Baptists or Methodists. Johnson would have none of that. He said American Catholics were American citizens—and won the election.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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