A Caltech Library Service

Legal dimensions of the Chinese experience in Los Angeles, 1860-1880


Armond, Michelle Elle (2000) Legal dimensions of the Chinese experience in Los Angeles, 1860-1880. Senior thesis (Major), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/8Q9B-F003.


On October 24, 1871, a massacre of eighteen Chinese in Los Angeles brought the small southern California settlement into the national spotlight. Within a few days, news of this “night of horrors” was reported in newspapers across the country. This massacre has been cited in Asian American narratives as the first documented outbreak of ethnic violence against a Chinese community in the United States. This is ironic because Los Angeles’ small population has generally placed it on the periphery in historical studies of the California anti-Chinese movement. Because the massacre predated Los Angeles’ organized Chinese exclusion movements of the late 1870s, it has often been erroneously dismissed as an aberration in the history of the city.

The violence of 1871 was an outburst highlighting existing community tensions that would become part of public debate by decade’s close. The purpose of this study is to insert the massacre into a broader context of anti-Chinese sentiments, legal discrimination, and dehumanization in nineteenth century Los Angeles. While a second incident of widespread anti-Chinese violence never occurred, brutal attacks directed at Chinese small businessmen and others highlighted continued community conflict. Similarly, economic rivalries and concerns over Chinese prostitution that underlay the 1871 massacre were manifest in later campaigns of economic discrimination and vice suppression that sought to minimize Chinese influence within municipal limits. An analysis of the massacre in terms of anti-Chinese legal, social and economic strategies in nineteenth-century Los Angeles will elucidate these important continuities.

Item Type:Thesis (Senior thesis (Major))
Subject Keywords:Chinese ; Los Angeles ; history
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
History and Philosophy of Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Deverell, William F.
Thesis Committee:
  • None, None
Defense Date:June 2000
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:01222014-101324309
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8056
Deposited By: Kathy Johnson
Deposited On:22 Jan 2014 18:33
Last Modified:21 Dec 2019 02:30

Thesis Files

PDF (Senior Thesis in American History) - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page