The Irish and... Chinese Immigrants in the United States

This talk will describe the sometimes fraught relationship between the Irish and Chinese immigrants in America. From intermarriage and cooperation in New York City, to competition and violence in the West, the Irish and Chinese had a tumultuous relationship.

Some of the antagonism in the West had been fueled by Irish immigrant, Denis Kearney. He organized the Workingmen’s Party, a labor movement that accumulated significant political power in California. Called "a demagogue of extraordinary power, he frequently gave long and caustic speeches that focused on four general topics: contempt for the press, for capitalists, for politicians, and for Chinese immigrants. He is known for ending all of his speeches with the sentence "And whatever happens, the Chinese must go." George Appo is another character who will be examined, as his life encapsulates the drama and difficulties of being biracial in the 19th century city. 

Dr. Jack Tchen will explore the evolution of the relationship between the Irish and Chinese in America. He will explain how Chinese, European-Americans in Yellowface, and various caricatures became objects of curiosity in the expansive commercial marketplace. And he will trace how Americans' attitude toward the Chinese changed from fascination to demonization, leading to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Acts beginning in 1882.