Learn about early Chinese immigrants and their history in America by navigating the timeline !
1800-1850

1851-1900

1901-1950

1951-2001
1800-1850

1848
Gold discovered at Sutter's Mill, California

1851-1900

1852
195 Chinese Contract Laborers land in Hawaii

1854
People vs. Hall
This California Supreme Court case ruled that the testimony of a Chinese man who witnessed a murder by a white man was inadmissible, largely based upon the prevailing opinion that the Chinese were "a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point, as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions, color, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference" and as such had no right " to swear away the life of a citizen" or participate" with us in administering the affairs of our Government."

For full transcipt, please visit Interactive Chinese American History

Yung Wing
Yung Wing becomes the first Chinese student to receive a college degree in the United States. Later, he married an American woman and urged Chinese officials to send Chinese students to the United States to study modern science and technology.

1862
The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) is founded to preserve Chinese culture, maintain ties with China, and act as a liaison with American groups.

California passes a "police tax" of $2.50 a month on every Chinese

1865
Central Pacific Railroad Co. recruits Chinese workers for the first transcontinental railroad

1867
2,000 Chinese railroad workers stage a one week strike

1868
United States ambassador to China, Anson Burlingame, brings The Chinese Mission to Boston. Burlingame negotiated the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 which guaranteed rights of immigration between China and the U.S. including reciprocal rights for education and residence for migrants.

1869
First transcontinental railroad completed

1870
California passes a law against the importation of Chinese, Japanese, and "Mongolian" women for the purpose of prostitution

1871
Los Angeles, CA: anti-Chinese violence

1875
Page Law prohibits the entry Chinese, Japanese and "Mongolian" prostitutes, contract laborers and felons.

1877
Chico, CA: anti-Chinese violence

1878
In re Ah Yup rules Chinese ineligible for naturalized citizenship

1879
Ko Kun-hua arrives in Cambridge to teach Mandarin Chinese at Harvard. This upper class, Confucian intellectual was the first Chinese faculty member at Harvard.

1880
US and China sign treaty giving the US the right to limit but "not absolutely prohibit" Chinese immigration

California's Civil Code passes anti-miscegination law

1882
Chinese Exclusion Act

This act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers, skilled or unskilled, for the next ten years. Teachers, students, merchants, and travelers were exempted. Chinese were also denied the right to become naturalized American citizens. This act made Chinese laborers the first nationality group specifically denied entry into the United States. (Before this, only prostitutes and criminals were denied immigration.) Shortly after Chinese exclusion, the government added paupers, insane, deceased, idiots, and polygamists to the list of undesirables.

For the full document, visit Interactive Chinese American History

1885
The labor competition as well as the willingness of Chinese to work for lower wages prompted the accusations of a Chinese labor monopoly, leading to an increase in anti-Chinese sentiment and propaganda. This provided the backdrop for anti-Chinese violence in Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1885.

From Asian Americans: An Interpretive History, by Sucheng Chan.

1886
Yik Wo v. Hopkins declares that any law with unequal impact on different groups is discriminatory.

1887
1st day of brutal 2-day massacre of 31 Chinese miners in Snake River, Oregon. Covered up by officials, the case was not discovered until 1995.

1888
Scott Act
The Scott Act prohibited any Chinese laborers who had temporarily left the United States from returning, even though they had reentry permits. This law left over 20,000 Chinese Americans stranded overseas, most on visits to relatives. The Scott Act was repealed in 1894.

1892
Geary Act
The Geary Act extends Chinese exclusion for another ten years, extends it again for another 10 years in 1902, and indefinitely extends it in 1904.

1893
Chinese community raises money to test the constitutionality of the Geary Act, which allowed deportation of Chinese when caught not carrying a certificate of residence. The Act, which also renewed exclusion of Chinese laborers for 10 years, was eventually upheld.

1894
Xingzhonghui established by Sun Yat-sen in Honolulu

1898
United States v. Wong Kim Ark
One of the most far-reaching cases in immigration law, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that 14th Amendment to the Constitution applied to all people born in the United States "regardless of race or color." Thus, Wong Kim Ark, who was born in the U.S., was considered a citizen by birth and could not be prevented from returning to live in America after a trip to China. This ruling is now under attack today by anti-immigration groups.

1899
Baohuanghui established by Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao in Vancouver

1900
San Francisco Chinatown quarantined during bubonic plague scare

1900-1950

1902
Chinese exclusion extended for another 10 years

1904
Congress indefinitely extended the various extensions of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the last of which was in 1902.

1905
Boycott of American products by Chinese in the US and China

1906
San Francisco earthquake and fire

For a full account of the diaster, please visit Museum of the City of San Francisco

1910
Angel Island opens as an offical immigration station. Despite the real hardships faced by European immigrants, their immigrant stories are often romantically colored through the filter of the Statue of Liberty, a lasting symbol of America's immigrant roots. Publicly thought of as "the Ellis Island of the West Coast," Angel Island did not welcome Asian immigrants. Those who passed through Angel Island soon realized that exclusionary acts and discriminatory laws would play major roles in their American lives. Between 1910 and 1940, as many as 175,000 Chinese and 60,000 Japanese immigrants crossing the Pacific endured crowded facilities, humiliating medical examinations, intense interrogations, and countless days, months or years of waiting at the Angel Island Immigration Station.

For more details, please visit Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

1911
October 10 Manchu rule overthrown in China. Chinese men in America cut off their queues following the China revolution.

1913
Alien Land Law
This law, the first in California, prevented "aliens ineligible for citizenship" (Chinese and Japanese) from owning property in California. Similar acts followed in other states.

1917
Asian Barred Zone and Literacy Test
This zone, created by Congress on February 5, 1917, extended the Chinese Exclusion Act to all other Asians (with the exception of citizens of the Philippines and Guam, who were under American jurisdiction). The act also imposed a literacy test on immigrants, so that only those who could already read and write English would be admitted. The act passed over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson.

1919
On Leong Merchants Association establishes the Quong-Kow Chinese School for children to study Chinese language and culture.

1924
Oriental Exclusion Act
This act banned most immigration from Asia, including foreign-born wives and children of U.S. citizens of Chinese ancestry. In addition, American-born women who had married men who were ineligible for citizenship now lost theirs. (Thus an American woman of Chinese ancestry would lose her citizenship if she married a Chinese man not born in the United States.) And wives of merchants were no longer allowed to join their husbands.

1936
Ging Hawk Club essay contest, "Does My Future Lie in China or America?"
Winning Essay by Robert Dunn Wu
Second Place Essay by Kaye Hong

1943
Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act
As a result of our wartime alliance with China, this act was passed by the U.S. Congress to repeal the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and subsequent acts, allowing for the first time in 60 years the legal immigration of Chinese into the U.S. However, the quota for Chinese was very low compared to European countries, a fact which was not altered until 1965.

1945
The War Brides Act
This act allowed foreign-born wives of U.S. citizens who had served in the U.S. armed forces to enter the United States. By 1947, approximately 9,000 Chinese women had arrived under this act, which eased somewhat the imbalance in the ratio between men and women in the Chinese community. The following year fiancés of American soldiers were allowed to enter the United States.

1948
An Act of 1948
2,600 Chinese come to the U.S. under the Displaced Person's Act. California law banning interracial marriages is repealed after almost 70 years.

1949
Refugee Acts
14,000 Chinese arrive in the United States under Refugee Acts. Many immigrate to Boston marking a dramatic increase in the number of women and children.

1951-2001

1957
Act of September 11
According to this act, Chinese who had obtained entry visas by fraud and misrepresentation would not be deported if a spouse, parent, or child was a citizen or a permanent resident of the United States. In 1955, the U.S. Consul in Hong Kong had charged that there were many illegals in the United States (and that some of then may have been "Communist infiltrators"). A "confession" program was established so that illegals to proclaim their true immigration status. If their "confessions" were accepted, then their papers were adjusted so they could stay.

1965
Immigration Act of 1965 (Hart-Cellar Reform Act)
According to this act, passed on October 3, 1965, the national origins quota system (established in 1924) would be abolished over a three-year period, with final abolition as of July 1, 1968. This system, which heavily favored northern Europeans, had come under increasing attack for being racially biased. Instead, there was to be a flat total of 170,000 immigrants from outside the Western Hemisphere, with no more than 20,000 from any one country, and 120,000 from Western Hemisphere (with no quotas by country).

The quota was to be calculated according to the person's country of birth. For the Chinese, those born in Hong Kong would come under Great Britain's quota, but these people could make up no more than 1 percent of the total number of visas issued to Great Britain in any one year. The act led to dramatic increases in the number of Asian and Latin American immigrants.

The act also established preference system of exemptions for family reunification outside quota system. It gave preference to uniting families by preserving 74 percent of the quota for relatives on American citizens. It also gave preference to people with professional skills needed in the United States.

1967
The Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle, WA.
It is the only pan-Asian American museum in the U.S devoted to the collection, preservation, and display of Asian Pacific American culture, history and art. It is named in honor of Seattle City Council member Wing Luke, who died in a plane crash two years earlier.

1972
The first national conference of Asian Americans and Pacific Island peoples is held in San Francisco, California

Governor Evans of Washington state creates the State Asian Advisory Council by executive order

1974
Chatham Square Rally in New York, NY.
Prompted by the failure of DeMatteis Corp. to hire Asian American construction workers for Confucius Plaza, Asian Americans for Equal Employment stages a demonstration.

Members of the Pacific/Asian Coalition coin the phrase "Asian Americans and Pacific Island peoples" to refer to themselves.

The International Examiner, a Seattle based Asian American newspaper, is established.

Enter the Dragon is released starring Bruce Lee, a Chinese American actor and martial artist, who dies that same year.

1975
First annual Asian American Festival held in Columbus Park, Chinatown, NY.

People from Phila., Boston, and Wash.,DC join 20,000 NYC Chinatown residents in a demonstration against police brutality. Over 2500 New York Chinatown residents demonstrate outside City Hall.

1976
Author Maxine Hong Kingston wins the National Book Critics Circle Award for her book, Woman Warrior- a book reflecting on the immigrant issues. It and becomes among the most widely taught college-level book by a living author.

1982
Connie Chung, news anchor and correspondent for NBC News, is the only Chinese American woman seen regularly on national television. She was among the first minority women to break into the media field when she was hired by CBS in 1972 on the basis of both affirmative action and merit considerations.

The murder of Vincent Chin in Detroit was a pivotal point in Asian Pacific American history. The outrage over the first verdict of the accused, autoworker Ronald Ebens and his step-son Michael Nitz, motivated APAs to American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), a pan-Asian American activist group that mobilized to demand a retrial against the two men.

For more information on the case, please visit Remembering Vincent Chin.

1984
Reverend Jesse Jackson becomes the first presidential candidate to visit New York City's Chinatown.

1989
Chinese American Michael Chang becomes the youngest French Open and Grand Slam tennis champion at age seventeen.

1992
The 102nd Congress unanimously passes legislation designating May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for the nation.

Asian/Pacific American Labor Alliance founded in Washington, D.C. The 500 unionists formed the 1st national Asian/Pacific American, a subgroup of the AFL-CIO.

1993
After a 36-day hunger strike in May, Asian American students at University of California finally get the administrations to agree to establish an Asian American studies program.

1995
Immigration Reform Act of 1995

Over 100 Chinese immigrants rallied at the San Francisco Senators' Office to deliver 10,000 petitions opposing congressional proposal which bar immigrants from federal public assistance programs.

1996
Washington State voters elect Gary Locke as the state's 21st governor, the first Asian American governor on the U.S. mainland.

The TIME magazine's 1996 Man of the Year is Dr. David Ho for his groundbreaking research efforts on the AIDS virus.

Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year is golfer Tiger Woods. He refers to his ethnicity as "Cablinasian", an ethnic blend of Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian.

1998
Chinese American ice skater Michelle Kwan receives an Olympic silver medal in the Nagano Olympic games.

2001
Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" wins three Oscars and becomes the top-grossing foreign language film of all time.