Hawkins 1 Jack Hawkins Kelley AP English February 3, 2013 History and Rhetoric of the Chinese in San Francisco During

the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, immigrants from China immigrated to the United States by crossing the Pacific Ocean, and many ended up in San Francisco, California. There, they established an ethnic enclave where they retained much of their home culture, and were received with mixed feelings. Here, they wrote and produced art and literature using similar themes and rhetoric. In the mid 1800’s, famine, uprisings, rebellion, and other causes in China made Chinese citizens want to leave their country. When they heard there was gold in America, many Chinese looking for opportunity headed East to the United States. Crossing the Pacific, most entered at Angel Island. Angel Island was created to resemble Ellis Island in New York, and was a major point of entry for most Chinese Immigrants. In America, the Chinese were met with a good amount of economic opportunity. Many worked in the gold mines, and others worked building the TransPacific Railroad. The thousands of Chinese immigrants working in America were known as hard workers, and were “proved to be cheap, efficient, and expendable” when it came to challenging and dangerous jobs in the US (Age of Railroads, 2). These workers were soon faced with a challenge when their strong labor force became a threat to society. “Racial discrimination and repressive legislation drove

Hawkins 2 the Chinese from the gold mines to the sanctuary of the neighborhood that became known as Chinatown” (The Story of Chinatown.) In 1870 laws were passed that controlled immigration and housing of Chinese, limiting them to certain areas. The Chinese then, in 1882, became the first and only ethnic group to be denied access into the United States, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed. This act was not repealed until 1942. During this time, however, the Chinese opened libraries, schools, and clubs like the YMCA, establishing a permanent settlement called Chinatown. When the Chinese arrived to Angel Island, many were detained there in large numbers while they waited for medical examinations and immigration papers. Many Chinese carved poems into the stone walls at Angel Island, writing about their experiences. These poems had many common themes, including longing for family back in China, hardships of the journey to America, and humiliation felt by those detained caused by condescending Americans. These poems were filled with anger, hopelessness, uncertainty, and loneliness. Written in the classical style, called jeuju, many of these poems allude to famous literary or historic Chinese figures. Anger caused by confinement and the fact that China could not help the situation also came up as a recurring theme in many poems, where the authors described their situation and how they wanted help. Most poems, however, are about the author’s own situation, and contain motifs of giving up and hopelessness, due to the fact that the Chinese felt as if they had no chance of becoming Chinese Americans. Some of the poets composed these poems for the purpose of showing those to come after them the challenges they faced, and others use these themes and motifs to help them get

Hawkins 3 their anger out, not knowing that their poems would offer an insight to the hardships they faced at Angel Island to people all over the world. This specific rhetoric is found in the poems, as well as other literary work done by Chinese immigrants during the same time period.