Angel Island and Early Immigration

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Poems at the Island

These poems were written by Chinese immigrants when they were being held at Angel Island. The treatment of the Chinese immigrants at Angel Island was notoriously poor. From these poems, there is a clear sense of sadness from the immigrants. These poems became a symbol of Chinese immigration into the United States as many of the Chinese at Angel Island wrote these poems in wood carvings. When analyzing the poems, it creates a true sense of empathy for those who were imprisoned at Angel Island before being sent back to China. The poem written by the Taoist from the town of Iron especially interesting. This Taoist man uses 4 characters in each line, and in the Chinese language 4 characters together often convey hidden meanings like idioms in English. Commonly used 4 character phrases are called Chengyu (成语). Because of this use of the Chinese language, it is evident that this man was well educated. However, due to the inability for Americans to understand even a small portion of the Chinese language, this man was treated like a criminal.

What Chinese were immigrating?

This source shows a table of the number of Chinese immigrants who came to the US between 1868 and 1876. The number of Chinese immigrants increased by almost double over the period. This source gives an exact look on how many Chinese immigrants were coming to America. The number doesn’t seem like a lot compared to other countries large number of immigrants coming to America at this time, but it still is a significant amount of people. This shows me that many Chinese immigrants began to come to America before the beginning of the 20th century. This table also shows the disparity between the amount of male and female Chinese immigrants who came to America. Almost all the immigrants were men which led to early Chinatown being known as a “Bachelor’s Society” From the table it is also clear that the original influx of Chinese immigrants into the United States was without children. Not only did the men leave behind their wives, they also left behind they children in order to find new opportunities in America.

The Voyage

This source is an illustration of a ship which was holding many Chinese immigrants. It partially illustrates the conditions that the immigrants faced on the ship. It also illustrates how many immigrants that would be housed on a typical ship. From the illustration the ship seems to not be specifically made for transporting people, as it has a cannon directly in the middle of the picture. The conditions on the voyage over the pacific were not very good for most of the immigrants. In the illustration it shows many immigrants huddled around one bowl of what looks like soup, all sharing the soup. The earl waves of Chinese immigration were very large in numbers. The United States government originally pushed for more Chinese immigrants to enter the country to help with the growth of the railroad industry. After the economic downturns of the 1870s however, the idea that immigrants were coming to America and stealing American people’s jobs became increasingly popular. There was a specific outcry against Chinese immigrants because they would “work harder and longer hours for cheaper than any American would.”