Racism, Dissent, and Asian Americans from 1850 to the Present: A Documentary History

By Philip S. Foner; Daniel Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Part V: African-Americans

The documents which follow survey statements by African- Americans on the situation of Asians in the United States. While several contributions have been placed in other sections of the current volume, it has been thought useful to highlight the remarks of African-American observers below, as indication of the sentiments of one oppressed group about another. The first several documents are taken from letters appearing in Frederick Douglass' Paper during the 1850's [Documents 1-3]. Another of the famed orator's journals, Douglass' Monthly, offered comment on Chineserelated issues before the Civil War (commonly linked to abolitionist themes) [Document 4]. Frederick Douglass' "Composite Nation" speech [Document 5], given in 1869, is a significant assessment of American nationality. Articles which follow express diverse concerns over the treatment of the Chinese and the impact of Chinese immigration on Black workers. A meeting held before the founding of the Colored National Labor Union in 1869 adopted a statement on that score [Document 6]. William H. Hall, CNLU organizer and frequent contributor to The Elevator of San Francisco, opposed harassment of the Chinese, while cautioning that employers would use them to lower Southern wage scales [Document 7]. The Missionary Record [Document 8], on the other hand, welcomed the Chinese precisely because their presence would facilitate the promotion of Black labor above a menial status, which the Chinese would then occupy; the editorial from The Elevator makes the same argument [Document 9].

On more than one occasion, articles and letters sympathetic to the Chinese appeared in The New Era [Document 10], a paper eventually edited by Frederick Douglass. 1 These reflected the broadmindedness of Douglass himself, who continued to offer his vision of a "composite nation" [Document 11]. As the 1870's unfolded, the Bay Area's The Elevator kept up with the debate on Chinese immigration, without approximating Douglass' view. Despite its editors' hostility, the paper continued to publish opinions against exclusion [Document 12]. Its editorials, however,

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