Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans by Jean PfaelzerDriven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfaelzer

Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans

byJean Pfaelzer

Paperback | August 1, 2008

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Driven Out exposes a shocking story of ethnic cleansing in California and the Pacific Northwest when the first Chinese Americans were rounded up and purged from more than three hundred communities by lawless citizens and duplicitous politicians. From 1848 into the twentieth century, Chinatowns burned across the West as Chinese miners and merchants, lumberjacks and fieldworkers, prostitutes and merchants' wives were violently loaded onto railroad cars or steamers, marched out of town, or killed.

But the Chinese fought back—with arms, strikes, and lawsuits and by flatly refusing to leave. When red posters appeared on barns and windows across the United States urging the Chinese to refuse to carry photo identity cards, more than one hundred thousand joined the largest mass civil disobedience to date in the United States. The first Chinese Americans were marched out and starved out. But even facing brutal pogroms, they stood up for their civil rights. This is a story that defines us as a nation and marks our humanity.
Jean Pfaelzer is Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Delaware. She is author of The Utopian Novel in America, 1886-1896: The Politics of Form, among other books. She was Executive Director of the National Labor Law Center and was appointed to the Washington DC Commission for Women.
Title:Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese AmericansFormat:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.06 inPublished:August 1, 2008Publisher:University of California PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0520256948

ISBN - 13:9780520256941

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Chinese call it Pai Hua The Chinese call it Pai Hua In this historical monograph, American studies Professor Jean Pfaelzer has produced the most significant text about the discrimination and exclusion of Asian Americans during 19th century America. "Driven Out" is the most complete historical record detailing both the major and forgotten histories of the enslaved, dispossessed and deported. In her introduction, Pfaelzer compares the pogroms faced by the Chinese to the Kristallnacht by the Nazis against the Jews in 1938 Germany. After you read the whole book, that analogy suddenly becomes that much clearer especially considering the "litany of hate" against the "yellow peril" which Pfaelzer recounts in detail. Pfaelzer dispells the myth of the "happy coolie" willing to endure hard labor for low wages. Suffering under the oppression of British/Portugese/Dutch/French colonialism at home in China, the Chinese were lured to the "Gold Mountain" of California but instead found themselves indentured. Virtually enslaved in the supposedly post-Civil War "free north". Women were kidnapped and brought in slave ships to serve as prostitutes for poor white labourers. Ironically, it would be American laborers of the North, the ones that opposed slavery so ardently during the Civil War that led the "ethnic cleansing" of the Chinese. This all proves the point that the battle over slavery was never about racial equality or black liberation, they fought slavery because it debased the labour class. Pfaelzer writes: "California laborers turned to the Democratic Party, which quickly delivered the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and closed the door on Chinese immigration. The same party that had supported slavery, 'the very bane of free labor', now attached workingmen's troubles to the Chinese" (p.149). Some of the low-lights include the race riots and expulsions in Tacoma, Rock Springs, Los Angeles, San Jose, Eureka, Truckee, etc... Pfaelzer lists well over 200 such incidents, and these are only the documented ones. However, Pfaelzer balances her narrative by describing in detail the many number of resistance mechanisms organized by the Chinese. The lawsuits filed, mass civil disobedience, and determined refusal to leave America all tell a tale of courage in the face of death and violent repression. Aside from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the most discriminatory and racial law passed was the the Geary Act of 1892, which required Chinese residents to carry a photo identification card proving their legal immigrant status, the first ever American internal passport based solely on race. Often referred to as the "Dog Tag Law", Chinese initially resisted but when even Chinese diplomats acquiesced to the US government, many were forced to register for the "Dog Tags". The Chinese were not given official citizenship status until 1952. Most striking about "Driven Out" is Pfaelzer's use of original American primary sources. Pfaelzer has meticulously processed thousands of old newspapers, diplomatic communiques and court documents to corroborate the personal letters and journals. This documentary evidence proves these incidents occurred and the fact that so little is known today about them perpetuates the myths that these were isolated incidents and not part of a larger "ethnic cleansing" campaign. What does this dark chapter in American history teach us and why is it significant? Because it shows what humans are capable of at their worst. That what happened just over one hundred years ago in America, the land of the free, can still happen today. That Americans ought to think very carefully about how to deal with the large illegal immigrant population currently in the US today. That they are humans too, and deserve to be treated as so. All the previous dozen books combined that I have read about 19th century Asian American history do not even compare to the comprehensiveness of "Driven Out". Pfaelzer has produced the most significant text in 19th century Asian American history and will become the standard text in University classrooms for the foreseeable future.
Date published: 2008-08-25