Tammy's All Things History

Bringing the Past to Life!


July 2012

California Gold Rush and Chinese Immigration

Between 1849 and 1882, California’s Gold Rush provided an abundance of opportunities for immigrating workers from China. Mining for gold spurred the need for cheap labor in large quantities, and it could not be panned fast enough for capitalists in the region. One solution helped to solve the issue when Chinese men answered ads overseas newspapers to work in the US. 

Once they arrived they went to work quickly and sent their earnings back home to their families. Some of them were fortunate enough to be able to bring their wives. However, most assumed small living quarters that catered to single or unaccompanied men and a bare bones type of lifestyle that meant working long hours and little time for anything else.  As the immigration continued and gold mining began to dry up, Chinese immigrants began to fill other positions with low wages such as railroad work and labor jobs provided by small business owners.

The situation of employing migrant workers immediately met with resistance by jealous white workers convinced of an idea the immigrating Chinese were intending to take all of Americans job opportunities. Fights and racist insults were flung daily upon the Chinese immigrant workers. As a result a majority of Chinese immigrants both permanently relocated and transient moved to areas of cities where they formed their own communities or “China Towns”. They did this to ward off violence and intimidation while at the same inadvertently setting up a self contained community that provided for the needs of Chinese workers and their families.

Two entrepreneurs,  Lung On and Ing Hay capitalized on the need for health and welfare services for Chinese communities. They provided herbs and medicines but also a way for Chinese to obtain goods imported from their homeland China. Dr. Hay’s reputation grew into one of infamy due to his ability to treat illnesses that most American doctors were inexperienced in dealing with. Business boomed and it brought people far and wide to the little town of John Day, an outpost stop along the trade route west. The company, Wah Chung & Co., also served as a social center that offered other services for Chinese communities such as employment offices, networking, and a general store.

The California gold rush brought opportunities for  Chinese who immigrated to the US but also enabled the establishment of communities to help other Chinese populations. Even though the jobs meant long hours and little pay, America offered a better way of life for the Chinese who settled there. From there many more contributions were made and today Chinese are recognized as any other citizen and the Chinese heritage of the United States is often celebrated throughout the country.

1968: A Pivotal moment for African-Americans

     1968 was a pivotal year in America’s civil rights movement. Black Americans were still suffering from white supremacy of which met them at every tuned opportunity to advance in their standards of living. Martin Luther King Jr., a spokesman for black Americans, preached reform through peaceful means. Even more so, he warned Americans that situations of unrest would occur in the event this fell upon deaf ears or further spurred black’s civil rights infringement. Feeling a lack of support for them, Black Americans grew impatient with bureaucracy in waiting for their needs to be met or not at all. In 1968, all of these things came to a head in April of that year.

Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in Memphis on April 5, 1968. Just days earlier he stood tall at one of his many speaking engagements preaching his message of peace not violence as a means to secure civil rights for all Americans. Angry, shocked and hurt, Washington, DC. black residents flooded the streets and local businesses to release their pent-up frustration. They looted, rioted and shouted the need for action and this time no amount of police force would deter their ambitions.

The following day schools and government offices were open as usual. This was unlike President Kennedy’s day of mourning after his assassination. In protest of this unfair action, a more liberal black activist, Stokely Carmichael, persuaded local black business owners to shut down and close in a wave of defiance against white’s lack of sympathy showed the black community. The looting and fires lead to the discharge of National Guard troops who were not allowed to fire upon the rioters.  For once, blacks were not ruled by police brutality. After the riots, the first black mayor of  Washington, DC., Walter Washington, was placed in charge of the city, supported by President Johnson; a pro-Civil Rights leader. Blacks that remained in these looted and rioted areas took over soon after as segregation ended and middle-class black families moved away. What remained was a new community built by blacks and protected by blacks so strongly no white person dared to venture there.

What was learned from this trying time in 1968 was thatAmericawas ready more than ever to end segregation and to begin to allow law to work for the advancement of civil rights. Black Americans would not sit idly by and be intimidated into accepting things the way they were. They mourned Martin Luther King Jr. and honored him by picking up the torch and carrying his vision with them into the future. Americans also learned that violence on violence was not the answer and it could not control the black community; strong as any other in its determination for political freedoms.

The Fires of 1968 Marker Photo, Click for full size

Today a marker stands to remind those who pass by to remember lives lost and reborn on the eve of major advancement of the civil rights movement.

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