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The 1871 Chinese Massacre in Los Angeles

Updated on June 26, 2020
Los Angeles 1871
Los Angeles 1871
1871 Chinese Hangings
1871 Chinese Hangings

The Tragedy in 1871 of Los Angeles, Ca

Los Angeles California was a beautiful land, blue skies, and the Pacific Ocean skirting it. But it was also a city of nativism targeting the Chinese. Even the government turned a blind eye to the discrimination toward the Chinese.

The census of 1841 counted only 141 people, and by 1871 there were 6000 living there. It was also a violent city with numerous brothels, taverns, hoodlums, and only six policemen. A small fraction of the city was Chinese. Yet, for some reason, sinophobia (fear of Chinese) was rampant. It didn't help the situation when the LA News and the LA Star continued to run editors condemning the Chinese for being lazy, treacherous—and increasing in numbers.

The area the Chinese lived was called Calle de Los Negros or Negro Alley, so named because of the darker skin of the Spaniards who had lived there before.

The ruckus started when two Chinese businessmen argued over a woman, Yut Ho, who belonged to a Yuen gang but was kidnapped by a rival gang. It so happened that a white citizen was inadvertently killed, and when the mob learned of this, the Chinese fled to Coronel Bldg for safety. One of the policemen, Jesus Bilderrain, heard a shot and ran to the area he thought it came from. After seeing some Chinese men running to the Coronel building and blowing his whistle, he wildly fired into the building while a white man, Robert Thompson, went to his aid. Thompson was shot in the chest and later died. A mob was forming and shouting the "Chinese were killing whites."

On October 14, 1871, a mob of 500 Anglos and Latinos began attacking, dragging Chinese out, and setting up gallows for hanging. The mob chased the Chinese and forced them out of the building. Some of the crowd managed to get on the roof, chopped holes, and started shooting to the floor below. Before the massacre was over, 17 Chinese were hanged with their bodies heaped in the jail courtyard, showing the grim reality of the night before.

One of the Chinese hanged was Dr. Chee Long Tong, who was respected by both whites and Chinese. He was begging for his life, offering all his life savings of $3000 as one of the mob shot him in the mouth, killing him, then proceeded to cut off his finger to get his gold rings.



LA Plaza 1871
LA Plaza 1871
Chinese Bodies in the LA Jail
Chinese Bodies in the LA Jail
Chinese Immigrants
Chinese Immigrants

Justice For the Massacre

Los Angeles was at the time attempting to get rail service to their city, and a tragedy like this could stop growth for them with bad publicity. It seems nothing appeared to change, and the newspapers failed to report much of what happened. Although indictments were issued for some 25 citizens, witnesses could not identify any of them. Many prominent leaders of the city were among the mob participating in the bloody massacre. Some say the police were on the take and simply let the mob do whatever they wanted.

In 1863, the state had passed legislation that would not allow any Asian person to testify against any white person. Therefore, no Chinese could accuse or testify about the massacre. The Chinese were now open to abuse and random attacks.

There is no doubt this was racially motivated, with the city leaders choosing to cover it up. Some were prosecuted for manslaughter and sentenced to San Quentin Prison. It wasn't long before they were all released on a "legal technicality".

Charges were dropped with no one ever held accountable. The only thing that happened after the massacre was the outlawing of using a noose. The 17 Chinese were the last to be lynched in Los Angeles.

In 1882, The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur, prohibiting Chinese immigration. It was repealed in 1943, ending 62 years of Chinese exclusion and allowed them to become naturalized citizens.

In 2014, Congress passed a measure to recognize the many contributions the Chinese-Americans have made and to apologize for the previous racist acts.

Chinese Exclusion Mtg
Chinese Exclusion Mtg
Chinese Must Go Ad
Chinese Must Go Ad

Comments

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    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      13 months ago from Toledo, Ohio

      Thanks for reading. History is full of these horrendous times.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      13 months ago from UK

      I hadn't heard of this event before. It's a sad account.

    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      13 months ago from Toledo, Ohio

      Thanks for reading. I do appreciate it.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      13 months ago from Singapore

      Interesting article about a subject I was not aware. well done.

    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      13 months ago from Toledo, Ohio

      Thank you so much for reading. Your comments mean a lot to me.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      13 months ago from the PNW

      Great work, Fran. Important topic. Learned a lot.

    • surovi99 profile image

      Rosina S Khan 

      13 months ago

      Thank you, Fran, for this article about the Chinese massacre in Los Angeles once upon a time. Yes, racism is a problem until now. Hate won't wipe out hate but love will.

    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      13 months ago from Toledo, Ohio

      Kyler. Thank you so much for your comments. Since I love history, I also know about racism toward different nationalities like Irish, Italians, etc. It is disheartening to know about hate in the world. You might also know of other Chinese massacres, like Rock Springs, 1885, and Hell's Canyon 1887. Will it ever stop?

    • Kyler J Falk profile image

      Kyler J Falk 

      13 months ago from California

      During this time where BLM wishes to silence anyone but black lives, I've come to converse with many individuals about their experience with racism. I have long been taught that my white skin somehow makes me a contributor to racism, that I can't experience racism because of it, and I learned to hold a secret hate for my own skin. As I speak with more and more individuals, I'm learning how deeply ingrained racism is in American culture for every race.

      Most interestingly, the many self-identifying Asian-Americans I've spoken to discussed with me how their own culture is trying to replace Americans, regardless of color, in order to clear a path for more Asians and decrease the non-Asian population and their opportunities. The executives of Kia, I won't say which branch, and I discussed how they would not hire anyone who was not of Asian descent for anything above managerial positions, they had claimed this was due to wanting to maintain power over their company culture.

      With stories like this, a story I had never heard before and I thank you for it, I now understand why they would harbor fear of losing power over their culture. Happenings like this, where an entire race is targeted as evil and less than human, only serve to ingrain racist sentiments in everyone's lives.

      I hope we all learn from the past and present, so we can all move forward into a brighter future that avoids racial atrocities.

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