Chapter 1 | The Chinese Exclusion Act

♪ ♪ (birds squawking) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR:
On June 30, 1885, as the fund-raising campaign for the pedestal
of the Statue of Liberty finally began to pick up speed, a letter appeared in the pages
of “The New York Sun” written by a young Chinese immigrant and recent college graduate
named Saum Song Bo, who had come to America
years earlier as a small boy, and who dreamed
of becoming a lawyer. SAUM SONG BO:
“Sir: A paper was presented to me yesterday “for subscription
among my countrymen “toward the Pedestal Fund
of the Statue of Liberty. “My countrymen
and myself are honored “in being thus appealed to “as citizens in the cause of liberty. “But the word liberty
makes me think of the fact “that this country
is the land of liberty “for all men of all nations
except the Chinese. “That statue represents
Liberty holding a torch– “which lights the passage of those of all nations who come into this country. “But are the Chinese
allowed to come? “Are the Chinese here
allowed to enjoy liberty “as men of all other
nationalities enjoy it? “Free from the insults, abuse,
assaults, wrongs, and injuries “from which men of other
nationalities are free? “By the law of this nation, “a Chinaman cannot
become a citizen. “Whether this statute
against the Chinese “or the Statue of Liberty “will be the more lasting
monument to tell future ages “of the liberty and greatness
of this country “will be known only
to future generations. Saum Song Bo.” (distant voice speaking
Chinese dialect) (horse whinnying) (bell tolling) NARRATOR: The solitary arm of the
unfinished Statue of Liberty had languished on Madison Square in New York for more than five years
when on May 6, 1882– on the eve of the greatest
wave of immigration in American history — President Chester A. Arthur
signed into law an extraordinary piece
of federal legislation. It was called
the Chinese Exclusion Act — and it was unlike
any law enacted since the founding
of the Republic. Singling out as never before a specific race
and nationality for exclusion, it made it illegal for Chinese
workers to come to America and for Chinese nationals
already here ever to become citizens
of the United States. Fueled by deep-seated tensions over race and class
and national identity that had been festering since
the founding of the Republic, it was the first
in a long line of acts targeting the Chinese
for exclusion– and it would remain in force
for more than 60 years. It continues to shape the debate about what it means
to be an American to this day. (seagull squawking) RENQIU YU: Chinese Americans always
have this identification with the founding principle
of this country, so beautifully laid out
by the Founding Fathers and so eloquently articulated in
the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution. The Chinese identify
with this fundamental principle of liberty, equality,
and justice for all, and all men are created equal. Now, how can you say
that this is a group of people who are biologically and culturally unfit to live a civilized life, to appreciate and practice American culture, political
and religious ideals. That’s why I think a lot
of Americans had a hard time to learn that
the Chinese Exclusion Act really exists for 60 years. They couldn’t believe it,
the government did that. MAE NGAI: We have to remember that
for most of the 19th century, immigration into the United States was basically open. You just showed up. So the Chinese exclusion law
is one of the first really comprehensively
restrictive laws. And it’s also the first
and only time in the entire history
of the United States that a group is singled out
by name — Chinese, by name — as being undesirable. So this is truly
a remarkable moment. JEAN PFAELZER:
Starting in California, the Chinese were marked
as different. And I see the 1882 bill as a link in a chain of bills
and a chain of legislation, and race riots and purges that are trying to move the
country toward ethnic cleansing. The 1882 bill was not about labor. I think it was
about white purity, and, “How do we get rid
of people who were different?” DAVID LEI: Many people think
of this exclusion law as being very racist,
very unfair. But if you look at the world
at that time — every country was like that,
and almost every ethnicity. Try to be a citizen of China, or try to be a citizen of Japan,
is impossible unless you’re ethnically
Chinese or Japanese. But this is a group of people– Chinese-American,
the Chinese that were here — who actually fought back and made America better
than what it was, and helped make America
what it is today — the values that we have, including equal protection under
the law; rights to education; what it means to be American, what makes you American,
to be born here. All these weren’t defined. JOHN KUO WEI TCHEN: The 1882 exclusion law
has been forgotten. But once we remember it,
it is outrageous. And it’s probably
why we’ve forgotten it, because it is so outrageous. Many Americans today
cannot believe this happened. How could this country– in its culture, in its politics,
in its economics — do what it did
against a whole class of people? The exclusion law said, “That whole race of people
are banned from this country.” So it’s a racial exclusion law. So that banning of a whole
category of people directly challenges
foundational questions of what American freedom means, and what American history means, who “We the people”
can constitute. K. SCOTT WONG: I think it’s essential that Americans know about the exclusion of Chinese — not because it’s the Chinese but because it reflects
how America has come to develop, how America saw itself
at one time, and how it continues
to see itself. It has much to do with the character
of our national history. And that, to me, is the most
important thing in understanding how we became who we are today. Some of it has to do
with the fact that we excluded Chinese
for 60 years.

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29 Responses

  1. A D says:

    Just like China won't want to be flooded with poor Americans changing their culture, there's nothing wrong with countries deciding who comes into a country legally. A country without borders will soon be no country.

  2. Simone Miller says:

    We have not ben too welcoming as a nation in the past right up to today. It is shameful.

  3. Xiaolu Shi says:

    I am wondering why there were no German or Italian interment camps but the Japanese Internment camp during the WWII.
    There has always been an Eurocentric concept of the US and the perception of Asian Americans as the perpetual foreigners.

  4. Michael Miles says:

    vary sad, I am sorry for this being white. my aunt is Chinese American. and highly regarded archeologist. This show made me cry and want to throw up at the same time.
    I am sorry for this

  5. Les Gee says:

    Must read: "One Small Pebble… A Thousand Ripples " at Amazon books.

  6. Qflick says:

    They avoid teaching this in history. Never heard of it until I read up on it myself.

  7. Mary Cerrone says:

    Yes, and United States they did have German people and then Italian people in camps not as much as Japanese they had a lot more Japanese in camps.

  8. Paulina Ruiz says:

    When will Chapter 2 of this documentary be posted?

  9. Mike Hunt says:

    Now they have buffets. All is right.

  10. Kevin Chow says:

    Unfortunately, Mexico did that too but people nowadays just ignore it.

  11. Spike Baltar says:

    Chinese are always hardworkers since the beginning of time. As a woodworker, I know what's like going through hard labor. Shout out to those who survived the railroad job and return back to China to live a peaceful life. R.i.p to those who were massacred ??

  12. Johanna Bojorge says:

    During the late 19th century, a recession was going on. Workers were either losing their jobs or losing part of their wages. They were going on strike and companies started to hire Chinese immigrants because they worked longer and for cheaper wages. This was at the end of Manifest Destiny which in essence was a white nationalist movement. So instead of blaming the wealthy business owners of taking their jobs, they turned to the unfamiliar face of the Chinese and took it out on them. This is a story that gets repeated every time there’s a lack of jobs. We find an unfamiliar face(immigrant) to blame instead of those who hold all the capital.

  13. twenlil says:

    Just remember the "rule of law" argument from the Canadian government who not only had their own version of the Chinese Exclusion Act but also a head tax on all Chinese coming to Canada.

  14. Doublescoop BS says:

    The same happened in Canada. Sad.

  15. Keiko Hakate says:

    What is this about ? I ended up falling asleep during the video ? ??

  16. Joey Tan says:

    i was hoping for a history on why this happened and what the political and public sentiments on the social matters that lead up to this were. instead, its just a slide show and of chinese people sitting around being butt hurt about it.

  17. Rose says:

    Answer these questions. Write in full sentences
    1. What was unusual about the Chinese Exclusion Act?
    2. Why had Chinese workers come to the USA in the first place?
    3. What is unique about this law?
    4. Name three reasons Jean Pfaelzer gives for why it was passed

    B. Why was the Chinese Exclusion Act significant in US history?
    Write two paragraphs using precise detail from the video and your own thoughts.

  18. ZEN 33 says:

    Over 50 millions Native American were genocided to about half million, along with millions of buffaloes killed by Buffalo Soldiers. Millions of black forced to be slaves or killed. Black people in American continent are Olmec descendants. Their history is completely destroyed. Chinese Exclusion Act is a wake up call to all those Asian Americans to remember who you are. Always prepare to defend yourself when the time come and it will come, again. History will repeat itself.

  19. Kettly Charles says:

    They got a taste of their medicine! They refused to embrace black people

  20. Kettly Charles says:

    They forgot how they were treated! They would be the last person to treat black some types of way

  21. Kettly Charles says:

    You're a liar they also call black by name

  22. Kettly Charles says:

    You people refused to stand for black people

  23. Jackson Loy says:

    US would re-enact this act in the near future.

  24. UltraGamer 49 says:

    My great great great grandparents came to California before this act was passed in 1882, they came to find a “better life.” I feel sorry for them that they might have suffered a lot but I’m glad that im one of their descendants.

  25. Kai Tang says:

    Now we have to score higher to enter Ivy League schools for our higher intellect.

  26. Max Lu says:

    White Guy:We had it tough back then,
    Mexican Guy:Really Man
    Black Guy:Hold my beer
    Chinese Guy:(enters the chat)
    Native American Indian guy:Children please settle down

  27. WokeFromTheMatrix SpreadTheTruth says:

    People need to wake up and understand that even to this day a subconscious underlying bigoted mindset in every race that even infects and influences others even when its not verbal! That is incredibly dangerous! Wake up from your Stockholm syndrome to European Neanderthals that oppressed, pillaged, raped, enslaved, and killed your peoples that they deem inferior. No matter how compliant you are they do not like or actually want you! They will still see you as inferior and disposable! Wake up stupid people that are white washed and worship the evil Euro neanderthal pink balls! Hopefully China becomes world power that enslaves and massacres all euro neanderthals especially in America!

  28. Timothy Kwong says:

    Scapegoating , fearmongering, warmongering…..nothing changes ,
    same excuses used against people who don't look , speak , worship , dress like you , ….what a shame. A century later…..same shit , lay the blame on others ,
    to distract your supporters or base , from
    understanding the real issues .

  29. Solomon Richmond says:

    No wander all us american are so stupid… We keep out all the smart people?

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