Asian Community in Bay Area

I come from China and I enjoy the unique culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are many different Asian communities in the Bay Area, Chinese community, Korean community, Japanese community, and so on. In Professor Cohen’s lecture, Golden State Radicalism, I learned some surprising facts about early Chinese immigrants who came to San Francisco in the Gold Rush and railroad construction period.

The Central Pacific Railroad was one of the most important railroads in the United States in 19th century, and today I learned that it was supported by Leland Stanford. Throughout this project, the railroad company hired a large number of Chinese workers. They were described as hardworking and they required less pay. Later there were anti-Chinese sentiments in the Bay Area, because other immigrants thought that Chinese immigrants took their opportunity. Communities of Chinese immigrants and Chinatowns were often interrupted and burned by some European American immigrants. The California and federal government also limited the rights of Chinese immigrants. In 1882, the United States passed the first federal law on prohibiting the entrance of all Chinese laborers. Until middle 20th century, the Chinese community in California were victims of unfair laws and treats.

Chinese workers

I did some research on these Chinese railroad workers in the 19th century. These immigrants were mainly farmers who lived in Guangdong Province. In late 19th century, when it is late Qing Dynasty in China, the society was unstable and there were many warlords in different parts in China, so many people moved to other countries. As for the population of these immigrants, one interesting fact about the people in early Chinatown is that most of them were actually married but had left their wives, children, and parent behind in their villages in China. Leaving from their hometown is really challenging and might be a hard time to them, but probably they had no other ways to make livings. They needed to make money for their family and relatives in their hometown, so they had a heavy task in California and brought hope to their family and relatives. Still, it was not easy for them to make money in California, because of the unfair social policy. In fact, many immigrants did not go back to China and stayed living in California. Now we can see Chinatowns in different locations in California, which were built by early Chinese immigrants many years ago. In South Bay cities, there are many Chinese shopping malls built recently.


In the late 20th century, there was another wave of immigrants. Many Chinese moved to America on professional visas, and many on student visas, and I noticed an exponential growth of the number of these immigrants. In Bay Area, many technical companies and labs were rapidly growing. They needed a large number of professionals, and there were not enough engineers nearby, so they hired engineers from overseas. I noticed that the Federal and California government generally had an open attitude towards and encouraged all immigrants, including Chinese immigrants, because they helped the development of local industry.

Besides the Chinese American community, Japanese American is also a big part of the community in Bay Area. A few months ago I see the Google doodle features Fred Korematsu, who was a Japanese American civil rights activist during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of individuals of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast from their homes and their mandatory imprisonment in internment camps, but Korematsu instead challenged the orders and became a fugitive. Fred doubted the justifiability of this policy, but failed in the court case. Later, the United States noticed that they were wrong. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed a proclamation formally terminating Executive Order 9066 and apologizing for the internment, stating, “We now know what we should have known then — not only was that evacuation wrong but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans. On the battlefield and at home the names of Japanese-Americans have been and continue to be written in history for the sacrifices and the contributions they have made to the well-being and to the security of this, our common Nation.”

Fred Korematsu