|Anti-Chinese Violence: The Rock Springs Massacre,
After several decades of discrimination and legal harassment, anti-Chinese
sentiment found expression in the violent actions taken by vigilante groups
during the 1880s and 1890s. The growing labor movement officially endorsed
an anti-Chinese, pro-Chinese-exclusion platform and this exacerbated tensions.
Chinese workers throughout the western states were driven out of mines, agricultural
settlements, and cities. Local authorities did little or nothing to prevent
these attacks and were sometimes active participants in the mob action. In
several cases federal troops were called in to restore order.
Massacre of the Chinese at Rock Springs, Wyoming
In 1885 in Rock Springs, Wyoming, white miners attacked Chinese miners after
the Chinese refused to join in a strike for higher wages. The San Francisco
Chronicle ran several articles on the attack. The first of the set of
newspaper clippings describe what happened at Rock Springs, Wyoming. The second
set of clippings asks the question, “What Will China Do?” Have
the students read the newspaper articles and as a class discuss the following
What does citizenship mean? Are you entitled to protection from the nation
of your citizenship no matter where you live?
Under what circumstances should the government of one country attempt to
intervene on behalf of its citizen(s) residing in another country?
What reasons does the news article give for predicting a weak response
to the massacre by the Chinese government?
It may be necessary
at this time to brief the students on the situation in China during the
19th century. Relevant information can be found in the
Teacher Background for this lesson.
The Chinese government, however, did respond to the violence. The head
of the Chinese legation in the United States sent three Chinese officials
to investigate. The surviving miners presented the Chinese consul from
New York, who was one of the investigating officials, a letter describing
attack and requesting help in securing redress and compensation.
Divide students into small groups to read the letter from the Chinese
survivors and discuss the questions following the reading. The questions
the Chinese immigrants’ response to the violence as citizens
of China and ask students to consider the international issues that
come into play
foreign citizens are attacked or abused.
Directions are also given for an independent research assignment.