The Forgotten Contributions of Napa Valley Chinese Immigrants, 1870-1900
McCormick, John Edmund
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CitationMcCormick, John Edmund. 2022. The Forgotten Contributions of Napa Valley Chinese Immigrants, 1870-1900. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractBetween 1870 and 1900, Chinese workers contributed significantly to every major area of the Napa Valley economy. Inexpensive Chinese labor was critical to the success of diverse areas of the economy such as viticulture, hop growing, leather tanneries, quicksilver mining, road and bridge construction, farm labor, retail, railroad maintenance, laundries, domestic service, and cooks. Chinese workers were remarkably successful given the intense discrimination they faced socially, economically, and politically. They lived in every town in the Napa Valley, but they were not allowed to participate in common, everyday activities with the rest of the townspeople. Yet at the same time they were constantly disparaged for not assimilating.
They were not allowed to live among the people they worked for and had to reside in crowded ghettos and tenement housing. There was almost no opportunity for love, marriage, or a family of their own. They kept their cultural identity through religious observation in temples known as Joss Houses and through membership in organizations like the Chinese Free Masons that operated as stand-ins for the families left behind. They had to deal with a legal system that was both overtly and implicitly racist and refused, at almost every turn, to bring justice to aggrieved Chinese people.
They were eventually driven from the Napa Valley, not by violence or boycotts sponsored by various local Anti-Chinese Leagues, but by demographic trends brought by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent legislation. Their contributions to the Napa Valley have been almost wholly forgotten, yet their assistance was uniquely critical to the success of the entire region and provided the economic foundation for an area now known around the world for wine, food, and incredible beauty.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370746
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