The accommodation of Chinese immigrants in early California courts

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Most histories today emphasize the overwhelming antagonism toward Chinese immigrants in the initial period of California history. Citing press accounts, congressional testimony, and the diaries of the time, historians have noted that anti-Chinese sentiments rested upon a host of social, political, and economic differences. These culminated in agitation on the part of the white working classes for the expulsion of the Chinese. When the Chinese were finally excluded by federal law in 1882, they had been subjected to a wide variety of racist laws, including taxation, prohibition of testimony, discriminatory employment practices, and inhuman treatment in communities, courts, and jails. But the earliest period of Chinese presence in California—especially in the legal sphere—was marked by notable incidents of tolerance and accommodation that have been largely overlooked. This article examines these instances of legal tolerance of Chinese immigrants. An explanation based on the development of frontiers is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-465
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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