Mapping anti-Chinese Violence

Thulstrup de Thure's depiction of the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre which appeared in  Harper's Weekly.   Wikimedia Commons .

Thulstrup de Thure's depiction of the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre which appeared in Harper's Weekly. Wikimedia Commons.

The Tacoma Expulsion was one of many anti-Chinese acts of violence that occurred in the United States. The first instances of anti-Chinese violence occurred in the hills of the Sierra Nevada during the California gold rush. During that period, white miners placed taxes on Chinese-born miners, and would attack Chinese miners to drive them off their claims. It would be these actions which would “ignite the brutal firestorm of purges that burned in the west for fifty years.”[1] While there is not a definite list of anti-Chinese actions in the American West, Jean Pfaelzer notes that between 1849 and 1906, there were at least 200 purges of Chinese residents in the state of California alone.[2] Violence became a part of everyday life for many Chinese people living in the United States.

The two maps in this section seek to shine a light onto the anti-Chinese actions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first map, entitled "Mapping Puget Sound Anti-Chinese Violence, 1885-1886" seeks to contextualize anti-Chinese actions that occurred prior to and immediately following the Tacoma Expulsion in the Puget Sound region of the Washington Territory. The second map aims to represent the scope of group actions perpetrated against Chinese residents of the American West. Together these maps will show that the actions taken by citizens of Tacoma in 1885 had both historical precedent but also influenced greater anti-Chinese actions across the West.

Anti-cHINESE Violence in the PUGET soUND aREA

The purpose of this map is to situate the Tacoma Expulsion within the larger history of anti-Chinese violence in the region. In cases where extensive public scholarship is already available, the events are linked to their Wikipedia page. In cases of less well-known incidents, we have conducted research using both primary and secondary sources.


mAPPING north American Anti-Chinese Violence


The above map seeks to be a repository of anti-Chinese actions that occurred in the North American West between the years 1849 and 1922. Upon examination, it is clear that there were a few patterns to anti-Chinese group actions. One of the first patterns that becomes evident is that waves of actions occurred in certain time periods. The best example of this pattern is the grouping of actions that occurred in 1885 and 1886. Many of the actions that occurred in those two years were influenced by each other; for example, the purge of Chinese residents in Humboldt County is cited as a reason why the Chinese Expulsion occurred in Tacoma. The Expulsion in Tacoma is in turn credited with sparking similar actions across the northwest such as the expulsion in Oregon City.[15]

Another pattern that can be seen in the map is that actions occurred with differing rationales during particular periods. For example, much of the anti-Chinese violence that occurred in the gold rush period (1849-1860) was driven by white action against Chinese miners. These actions included driving Chinese workers off their claims of land or attacking and robbing Chinese miners. The purges of 1885 and 1886 coincided with growing national anti-Chinese sentiment, which was heavily encouraged by labor organizations such as the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor.[16]

The map and dataset are intended to allow users to explore these patterns, discover new patterns, and partake in historical research and comparison. The map is not intended to be comprehensive. Instead, the map contains a wide swath of events that reflect general trends in anti-Chinese actions.


[1] Jean Pfaelzer, Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans (New York: Random House, 2007), 9-10.

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] “Coal and Ethnic Cleansing: Driving Chinese from Washington’s Mines,” Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee, accessed March 28, 2017,

[4] Clarence Bagley, History of King County Washington, v. 1 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1929), 343.

[5] Pfaelzer, Driven Out, 215.

[6] W.P. Wilcox, “Anti-Chinese Riots in Washington,” in Anti Chinese Violence in North America, ed. Roger Daniels (New York: Arno Press, 1978), 205.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Kie Reylyea, “Remembering Washington’s Chinese Expulsion 125 Years Later,” Seattle Times, November 7, 2010,

[9] David W. Chen, “Picturing the Remnants of Anti-Chinese Violence,” New York Times, August 13, 2012,

[10] “Chinese in United States,” New York Times, April 12, 1886.

[11] Watson Squire, “Report of the Governor of Washington Territory Made to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1878,” (1886), 39,

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Lesson Fifteen: Industrialization, Class, and Race; Chinese and the Anti-Chinese Movement in the Late 19th-Century Northwest Northwest,” Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, accessed May 7, 2017,

[14] “Chinese Outrages,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 6, 1886.

[15] Anjuli Grantham, “Expulsion of Chinese from Oregon City, 1886,” The Oregon Encyclopedia, (2017),

[16] “Lesson Fifteen: Industrialization, Class, and Race; Chinese and the Anti-Chinese Movement in the Late 19th-Century Northwest Northwest.”

oTHER Sources Consulted

“Anti-Asian Riots and Massacres,” Angry API History, accessed May 10, 2017,

Tim Greyhavens, “The No Place Project.” No-Place-Project, accessed May 10, 2017,

Beth Lew-Williams, The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018).

“Violence.” Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee, accessed May 10, 2017,