Site of attempted forced removal via ocean steamer, Seattle. Photo by Tim Greyhavens
In his project No Place for Your Kind, Seattle-based photographer Tim Greyhaves documented historical sites from a little-known — yet one of the most violent — chapters of our history: ethnic cleansing and expulsion of Chinese immigrants. From the mid-1800s to early 1900s, the American West was settled by Chinese laborers, miners, and families. This was accompanied by over 150 known attempts to systematically and brutally drive the Chinese out via massacres, lynchings, riots, and burning homes and businesses to the ground (perpetrators went largely unpunished). Where once there were dozens of Chinese communities peppered across the West Coast and mountain regions, for the most part (except larger cities such as San Francisco, L.A., and Seattle), there is now no trace.
General area of the camp where five Chinese miners were murdered. Oro Grande, Idaho. Photo by Tim Greyhaves
Greyhaves also makes the connection between the ugly reaction to immigration then and currently. Both periods are marked by scapegoating and inhumane measures directed towards immigrants during an economic recession, and buttressed by fear of the “foreign Other”.
For more info on this period check out Jean Pfaelzer’s excellent book Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. Pfaelzer also writes about how the Chinese fought back: organizing strikes and protests, ordering firearms from China, and even winning legal battles.
Greyhaves’ next project will focus on another unfortunate series of events in Washington state’s history – the building of the Grand Coulee Dam and its infringement on vital tribal fishing grounds and burial sites.
And keep an eye out for an upcoming exhibit on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which is scheduled to open at the New-York Historical Society in April 2014.
Thanks to R.J. Lozada for sharing