The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 1

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The Chinese in Texas

EDWARD J. M. RHOADS*
SINCE THEIR ARRIVAL IN THIS COUNTRY MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO,
the Chinese have, despite their inconsequential numbers, attracted
an extraordinary amount of attention from their fellow Americans,
often as targets of nativist hostility or as picturesque objects of curios-
ity. Much of what has been written about the Chinese in America has
hitherto focused on their tribulations in the late nineteenth century in
the western states. Relatively little is known about their experiences in
other places, such as Texas. The Chinese in Texas were only a small
minority, never more than 2 percent, of the Chinese in America; never-
theless, their history closely paralleled that of the Chinese elsewhere.
This study traces their development from 1870 to 1970 through four
periods, during each of which they were, by coincidence, concentrated
in a different county of the state.l
The Chinese first came to Texas as part of their initial mass exodus
out of the west coast made possible by the completion of the transcon-
tinental railroad in May, 1869 (see Table I). Those who headed for
Texas came in particular to take advantage of the critical labor short-
age that prevailed throughout much of the South after the Civil War.
Many white southerners were then convinced that their recently eman-
cipated slaves could no longer be depended upon and were seeking an
alternative source of cheap labor. One solution, developed and publi-
cized at a convention of southern planters and railroad financiers in
Memphis in July, 1869, was to import the needed workers from China,
whose entry into the United States at that time was not yet hindered by
immigration restrictions. In the wake of the Memphis convention, Chi-
nese labor contractors from San Francisco, such as Cornelius Koopman-
*Edward Rhoads teaches Chinese history at the University of Texas at Austin. Research
for this paper was facilitated by a travel grant from the University Research Institute of
the University of Texas at Austin.
10n the Chinese in America, see Betty Lee Sung, Mountain of Gold: The Story of the
Chinese in America (New York, 1971); Rose Hum Lee, The Chinese in the United States
of America (Hong Kong, 1960); H. Mark Lai and Philip P. Choy, Outlines History of the
Chinese in America (San Francisco, 1973); and Victor G. Nee and Brett de Bary Nee,
Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown (New York, 1973).
For two very brief overall accounts of the Chinese in Texas, see Houston Chronicle, July

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/19/ocr/: accessed August 26, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.