Affidavit and Flyers from the Chinese Boycott Case
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 6 -The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)
- Standard 2A -Demonstrate understanding of the sources and experiences of the new immigrants.
- Standard 3B -Demonstrate understanding of the rise of labor unions and the role of state and federal governments in labor conflicts.
- Standard 3C -Demonstrate understanding of how Americans grappled with social, economic, and political issues.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard I.A.2 -Explain the major arguments advanced for the necessity of politics and government.
- Standard II.D.4 -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues in which fundamental values and principles may be in conflict.
Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 4, of the U.S. Constitution, the Congress is granted the power to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization." With passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, Congress exercised this authority, denying the rights of citizenship to all Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Boycott Case demonstrates one instance when immigrants overcame the ramifications of such laws through the U.S. judicial system.
Share this document and teaching suggestions with your history, government, language arts, and math colleagues.
Analyzing the Document
Divide students into small groups and assign each group one of the three union flyers. Direct students to study their flyers and answer the following questions:
- Allow each group to share its findings with the whole class and clarify unfamiliar
vocabulary terms. Initiate a discussion of labor unions' anti-immigrant, and
in this case anti-Chinese, sentiments and activities.
- What type of document is this?
- What was the document's main message?
- Who was the advertiser/author?
- Who was the intended audience?
- What could the motivation behind the message have been?
- What words are unfamiliar?
- Instruct students to answer the following guiding questions while reading
the affidavit. (This document may be challenging for younger students to comprehend
independently because of its vocabulary and length. Most would benefit from a
whole-class approach to the affidavit.)
- What type of document is this?
- When and where was it created?
- Who initiated it?
- Toward whom were the claims directed?
- Where were the complainants from originally, and where were they residing at the time of the document?
- In paragraph 1, what did they accuse the defendants of having done?
- In paragraph 2, what additional claims did they make?
Lead a class discussion of the document contents. Ask students to explain whether or not they think the Chinese men had a justifiable case. On the board or overhead transparency, compile a list of Huie Pock's and Quon Loy's specific complaints and the defendants' potential responses to these complaints. To summarize, direct students to assume the roles of Huie Pock or Quon Loy and write letters home to China describing the difficulties they are encountering in Butte, Montana.
- Create your own courtroom drama by staging a simulation of the Chinese Boycott Case in your classroom. Assign students to the roles of judge, attorneys (Messrs. Sanders and Sanders for the complainants), complainants, and several of the defendants. Challenge other students to create the following roles as witnesses for the complainants: other Chinese merchants, representatives from "scab" or unfair houses, a local employer of a Chinese worker. Additional witnesses for the defense might include unemployed union and nonunion workers, local Butte merchants, and various patrons of Butte businesses. Instruct each student to write a character sketch for his or her role that includes information about the character's potential economic and family situations and opinion on the boycott. If possible, refrain from revealing the judge's actual ruling in the case until after the simulation, but do provide some direction to both sides in preparing their cases.
Immigration Data and Statistics
- Chinese immigration was only one part of a much larger immigration wave during the 19th century. During this time millions of Europeans, first from the northern and western countries and then from the southern and eastern ones, entered the United States on its eastern shores. Instruct students to collect data (or provide for younger students) and create pie charts or bar graphs for U.S. immigration figures for designated periods of time. In order to be able to compare charts, predetermine parameters such as 1) the years or time periods to be reflected, 2) classification of immigrants by country, continent, or region, 3) color-coding immigrant classifications, and 4) scale or size of the graphs. The Immigration and Naturalization Service Web site is a source for recent immigration statistics. Check the Census Bureau Web site for additional information from Population of the Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990. While these tables do not provide specific country-of-origin information, they clearly exhibit the rapid population growth of U.S. cities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- While the Chinese Exclusion Act was directed solely against a single ethnic group, it was one of many laws passed regarding immigration. It was preceded by the Burlingame Treaty and followed by others such as the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and the Immigration Act of 1990. Direct students to research previous and current immigration legislation and assemble a timeline of major policies and laws. If class time is a constraint, divide students into groups and focus them on different historical periods. Assemble one large classroom timeline from their separate findings.
Compare and Contrast
- The Chinese were not the only immigrants subject to discriminatory acts over the last century. During periods of economic strife it is not uncommon for a country's native citizens to target recent immigrants as scapegoats. Mexican immigrants have been affected this way over the course of the 20th century, particularly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, by "Operation Wetback" in 1954 and "Operation Jobs" in 1982, and by California's Proposition 187 in the 1990s. Using print and electronic sources, instruct students to research one of these examples and to compare and contrast the surrounding circumstances to those of the Chinese laborers' experiences. Presentations can be in written or graphic form.
The Chinese Exclusion Act and ARC Research
- The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) was the first law to bar a group's immigration on the basis of race. Provide students with information on the main provisions of the act and its subsequent extensions, which remained in effect until its 1943 repeal. To extend the students' study, direct them to do an online catalog standard search under the keywords "Chinese Exclusion Act" specifying only descriptions linked to digitized copies. The search will result in 275 documents surrounding Chinese immigrant issues that will be listed in a table. Students should focus on a particular person and summarize the document or documents surrounding the case as done in Activity 2. To save time (or for younger students), searches may be narrowed down to cases involving 1 to 50 documents by using any of the following keywords: twelve Chinese men; Chinese Exclusion Act and reentry; Louie Jock Sung; Lee See Nam; James Wong Howe; Wong Foe Kwong; Chin Wing; Lee Wong Hing; or Lock Deon.
The documents included in this project are from Record Group 21, Records of the
U.S. Circuit Courts. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog National Archives Identifiers:
You can perform a keyword, digitized image and location search in the National Archives Catalog. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the online catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the online catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the online catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the online catalog will grow continually.
This article was written by Mary Frances Greene, a teacher at Marie Murphy School, Avoca District 37, Wilmette, IL.