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Asian American History on the Central Coast


From "A Different Asian American Timeline"

The Gold Rush to World War II



The first sizable group of Chinese laborers head to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. Another 20,000 Chinese arrive in San Francisco at the height of the gold rush after a year of crop failure in Southern China. Meanwhile, California passes a Foreign Minor's Tax, discriminating against Chinese and Mexican miners.


The Central Pacific Railroad begins hiring Chinese laborers.


The Knights of Labor forms. They would go on to support the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Contract Labor Law of 1885, and even expel Chinese laborers in their city of Tacoma, Washington.


Denis Kearney organizes an anti-Chinese movement in San Francisco, giving the Chinese laborers lower wages, poorer conditions, and longer hours to work than white men. This led to the Great Railroad Strike.


U.S. Court rules that the Chinese are ineligible for naturalized citizenship.


The Chinese Exclusion Act passes. The act, which was initially intended to last for 10 years, was renewed in 1892 and made permanent in 1902. It was the first law to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States.


The first group of Japanese laborers arrive in Hawaii. In mainland USA, an Anti-Chinese riot occurs where white coal miners, members of the Knights of Labor, beat two Chinese miners and burn down the Chinese quarter. No Whites were prosecuted for the murder of 28 Chinese people and $150,000 in property damage. The California Supreme Court sues the San Francisco School District for access to public schools, leading to the opening of the city’s segregated Oriental School.


Sugar plantations in Hawaii employ a large number of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino laborers.


Filipinos declare war on the United States, resulting in the death of over 250,000 Filipinos, mostly civilians.


Over 12,000 Japanese immigrants arrive in the United States following the annexation of the Japanese from Hawaii in 1898. Many of the immigrants were just released from indentured servitude


More than 1200 Japanese and Mexican workers in Oxnard, CA form the first farm worker union, the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA), which would become the first union to win a strike against the California agricultural industry.


The U.S. establishes the first border patrol intended to prevent Asians from immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico.


In Bellingham, Washington, white riots violently drive out South Asian migrants working in lumber mills, saying they were "wiped off the map". In addition, labor immigration from Japan is prohibited and President Roosevelt issues an executive order halting immigration from Hawaii, Mexico, and Canada to the U.S. mainland, to reduce Japanese immigration.


The Angel Island immigration station opens in San Francisco, intended to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act.


California passes the Alien Land Act, mainly targeting Japanese farmers and stopping them from land ownership and long-term leasing.


In California, Oregon and Arizona, armed White men deport Japanese farmers by truck and warn them to not return.


U.S. Supreme Court rules that Japanese immigrants are not eligible for naturalized citizenship and The Cable Act guarantees female citizenship only to women married to non-Asian foreigners.


Filipino farm workers are driven out of Yakima Valley, Washington.


Amid the Great Depression, the Repatriation Act offers Filipino immigrants free passage back to the Philippines if they promise to never return to the United States.


On February 19, FDR signs Executive Order 9066, which authorizes the exclusion of persons from areas designated military zones on the West Coast and leads to the removal and mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.


Incarcerated Japanese Americans are subject to a “loyalty questionnaire” that divides the population, leading to their segregation. On the other hand, China and the U.S. become allies in World War II; therefore enabling Chinese immigration and granting naturalization rights to some Chinese already in the United States, marking the first time that any Asians are permitted to become naturalized citizens.


The War Brides Act is passed, allowing thousands of Asian women entry to the United States as the spouses of American soldiers. World War II ends.

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