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Immigration, Immigrant Rights and the Chinese Experience

Page history last edited by Marcella Walter 2 years, 11 months ago

Immigrating--uprooting yourself from one country and culture to a new one--is difficult enough even when you are welcomed and the outcomes are good.   Immigration is still more difficult when you are an unwelcome newcomer--or one welcomed only for brutal work.  When you face constant threats and conflict. Such was the case with Chinese immigrants to the American West.  All immigration stories carry important plot lines that involve serious conflict as earlier residents fought and discriminated against newcomers, and as newcomers worked hard--through patience, endurance, and sometimes political, legal, and economic action and compromise--to make a go of life in a new country. 

 

In 1896, Butte unions organized a boycott of Chinese businesses. In response, Chinese business owner Hum Fay and other Chinese businessmen filed a lawsuit against the leaders. What motivated those who led the boycott and what was its legacy? How did this event resemble--or differ from other examples of anti-Chinese discrimination? How did the leadership within the Chinese community shape events?

 

Secondary Sources

 

Merritt, Christopher. The Coming Man from Canton: Chinese Experience in Montana (1862-1943) unpublished dissertation (University of Montana, 2010).  (This is the most modern, comprehensive work on the Chinese in Montana and includes numerous cases regarding various aspects of legislation and discrimination against the Chinese)  (Available at the Montana Historical Society Research Center, University of Montana Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library and online: http://etd.lib.umt.edu/theses/available/etd-06142010-161744/unrestricted/Merritt_Dissertation_Final.pdf)

 

Swartout, Robert R. Jr., “From Kwangtung to the Big Sky: The Chinese Experience in Frontier Montana,” Montana Legacy (Helena, MT, 2002) (Excellent overview of legislation and discrimination against this ethnic group in Montana)

 

Flaherty, Stacy A. "Boycott in Butte: Organized Labor and the Chinese Community, 1896-1897," Montana: The Magazine of Western History Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter, 1987), pp. 34-47

 

Primary and Secondary Sources on the Web

 

The Montana Historical Society's hands-on foot-locker "Coming to Montana: Immigrants from Around the World" provides an introduction to the immigration experience in Montana.  Scan the User Guide for a solid background.

 

http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/chinese-boycott/  provides affidavits, flyers, and lessons plans related to the famous case of Hum Fay.

 

http://mhs.mt.gov/education/textbook/Chapter15/historicaldocCh15-2.asp includes the original typed document recording Butte restaurant owner Hum Fay’s testimony in a lawsuit which ended a boycott. (Entire court transcript available at the MHS Research Center archives)

 

http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/LS/AACC/RESEARCH.HTM#tunnels this website, maintained by foremost Asian authority Priscilla Wegars of the University of Idaho, includes the definitive work on “Chinese tunnels” throughout the West, a myth resulting from racial discrimination.  

 

http://www.cas.umt.edu/anthro/anth495cim/researchresources.htm includes synopses and newspaper citations from across the state about discrimination and legislation again the Chinese in Montana.   

 

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