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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1882: That'll Be All...

1882: Chinese Exclusion Act is passed. The first immigration bill that expressly uses race to deny entry, it bars entry of any “skilled or unskilled” Chinese laborers. The act is passed 13 years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. [Student Perspective]

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1867: After being forced to work through the winter, Chinese railroad laborers strike for an increase in wages, a 10-hour work day when working outside, and an 8-hour work day in the tunnels. They also objected to being whipped and being restrained from leaving and looking for other employment. The railroad responded by cutting off provision and food deliveries, wiring east for African American workers and hiring a white posse to intimidate the workers, trapping the strikers in their mountain camps in the California Sierra Nevada and ending the strike in one week.
  • 1933: Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance formed to protect the immigrant Chinese workers in New York. They successfully challenge a provision of a law that would only allow U.S. citizens to own laundries, thereby saving the jobs of thousands of Chinese laundry laborers.
  • 2003: The Workers Organizing Center of the Chinese Progressive Association plays a coordinating role in winning the San Francisco Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the city minimum above that of the state.
Discussion Questions:
  • Examine the image celebrating the Transcontinental Railroad. Who is in the picture? What are they doing? What does the image imply about who created the railroad?
Additional Resources:
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