On this daySep 02, 1885

Racial Segregation Requirements in Wyoming Trigger Violent Attacks Against Chinese Laborers

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In 1885, the Union Pacific Railroad employed 500 coal miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, two-thirds of whom were Chinese. White miners, angry that the railroad was hiring Chinese miners, decided to drive Chinese people out of Rock Springs.

On September 2, 1885, a dispute broke out between white and Chinese miners when both groups wanted to work in the same part of the mine. Later that day, 100 white miners gathered with guns, hatchets, and knives and marched toward “Chinatown,” where the Chinese miners lived, to stage a brutal attack. When the Chinese residents attempted to flee, the white miners fired at them while they ran.

Twenty-eight Chinese people were killed in the massacre and another 15 were badly wounded. The white miners also looted and burned all 79 houses belonging to Chinese residents, leaving "Chinatown" demolished. In the days following this attack, federal troops brought in to establish order set up camp between the white area of town and "Chinatown," to prevent more violence; troops remained there for the next 13 years. Although 14 miners were arrested in connection with the riot and murders, none were ever convicted of any crime.

Today, there is little evidence of the massacre in Rock Springs. No marked gravesites exist for the victims because, at that time, “Orientals” were banned from white cemeteries. Instead, the victims were cremated and their ashes returned to China. Congress eventually authorized an indemnity to China in the amount of $147,748, but the U.S. government never assumed legal responsibility for the massacre.

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