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The Rock Springs Massacre Of 1885: When 28 Chinese Miners Were Slaughtered, Homes Burned

 Shortly after dawn on September 2, 1885, an argument broke out between Chinese and European immigrant workers of the Union Pacific Coal Company, and it is difficult to know the exact sequence of events at the mine that morning. Two Chinese miners were brutally beaten and one died. Rather than attempt to prevent or cover up the killing, European miners actually exited the mine in protest of the presence of Chinese miners and traveled to the nearby town of Rock Springs, Wyoming, where they found one of the worst racial apostles. carry through. Genocide in American History.

The Last Spike (1881) by Thomas Hill.

The context of the American Western industrial environment of the 19th century is important to understand this phenomenon of violence. How important the completion of the transcontinental railroad was to the success of the United States as a nation, especially as the Industrial Revolution reshaped lifestyles and economies around the world, is impossible to overstate. As a young nation, America saw western expansion as its destiny, but crossing safely was a long and often fatal task (just ask the donor party). The railroads were the country's only real hope to achieve that dream of "brightening from the sea". Union Pacific added rail lines from Nebraska to Promontory Summit, Utah, where it met with the Central Pacific Railroad, which will take you to sunny California.

It was a dangerous job, and when Central Pacific began hiring in January 1865, only a few hundred white men bothered to apply. Founder Charles Crocker turned to Chinese labor, which was plentiful at the time, as many had fled political unrest in China and continued to emigrate to the Americas, even until the death of the Gold Rush of 1850. happened. They faced dangerous conditions, and many died, but they still fared better than their white counterparts, at least when it came to disease. The cultural tradition of making tea meant that the water consumed by Chinese immigrants was boiled, killing off the parasites and bacteria that often cause dysentery.

A typical 19th-century Chinese-American mining camp.

Even though for a long time backbreaking labor was not exactly the American dream these immigrants were pursuing, anti-Chinese sentiment grew in later years as many white Americans began to believe that migrants were taking jobs from citizens. Huh. In addition, it was difficult for European immigrants to organize strikes and make an effective argument for higher wages if companies generally found Chinese workers less willing to work. This exact scenario occurred in Rock Springs in 1875, when white miners attempted to strike bringing in more than 100 Chinese workers only a few weeks later. In 1882, the US government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which is still the only time the United States has banned people of a specific nationality or ethnicity from entering the country.

So tensions were already high when, once again, European workers attempted to attack the Union Pacific in the early 1880s. Many white miners formed "Whitemen Town" in Rock Springs, where they joined the Knights of Labour, an international labor union. He attempted to recruit Chinese workers into his cause, but when he learned that white men expected to strike if their demands were not met, he politely declined. This did not please the white miners, to say the least.

An 1882 political cartoon showing a Chinese man being barred from entering the "Golden Gate of Liberty". The caption read, "We have to draw the line somewhere, you know."


After an attack on two Chinese miners on the morning of September 2, 1885, several white miners began to circle, others rustling to join. At about 2:00 p.m. at least 150 men armed themselves and landed on the Chinatown section of Rock Springs. Some demanded that residents pack their bags and promised an hour before resorting to violence, but within half an hour, shots were fired in the streets as the massacre began.

Many attempted to flee, only to be met by the mob, who had almost completely surrounded the area and began violently robbing every resident of Chinatown, either beating them with the butt of their rifles or Shot them outright. Around 3:30 p.m., a group of white women also gathered on the edge of Chinatown and began firing their own shots at homes and toward those who fled. A fire was set, and in the end, all but one house were burnt to ashes. Several people died in fires in Chinatown as they attempted to hide in their basement, while others were shot, beaten, stabbed and even stabbed. In at least one instance, a man was mutilated and taken to a local salon to show off his genitalia as a "hunting trophy". Twenty-eight bodies were later recovered, but since many of those who fled were never accounted for and the city burned down, historians estimate that between 30 and 50 people died in Chinatown that day.
 
Although 22 people were arrested, the all-white grand jury declined to claim that they found no witnesses. The men received cheers and a standing ovation upon their release, and the Rock Springs massacre incited others to use force against Chinese communities in the West, particularly in Oregon and Washington state. The effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act were not completely eliminated until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

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