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Primary Documents in American History

Chinese Exclusion Act

Chinese immigrants at the San Francisco custom-house.
P. Frenzeny.
Chinese immigrants at the San Francisco custom-house /
P. Frenzeny
Illus. in: Harper's weekly,
1877 Feb. 3, p. 81.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

The Chinese Exclusion Act (PDF, 428KB) of 1882 was signed into law on May 6, 1882. Officially titled "An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese," the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. It was extended in 1892 for another ten years by the Geary Act and then made permanent in 1902.

In 1943, at a time when the United States and China were allies during World War II, the ban on Chinese immigration and naturalization was finally repealed.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

"California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900

This collection consists of the full texts and illustrations of 190 works documenting the formative era of California's history through eyewitness accounts. Although there are no first-person memoirs of the Chinese experience in nineteenth-century California known to survive, you can search this collection to find references to Chinese immigrants from this time period.

Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

This site features 341 motion pictures, 81 disc sound recordings, and other related materials, such as photographs and original magazine articles.

  • Arrest in Chinatown, San Francisco, Cal. - This 1897 film shows the arrest of a Chinese man in Chinatown, watched by a crowd of onlookers. The precise date of this film and the arrest charge are uncertain. It is possible that the arrest was connected with the smuggling of illegal immigrants from China.
  • Parade of Chinese - This 1898 film was taken in San Francisco at the Golden Jubilee and shows a procession of the Chinese residents.
  • San Francisco Chinese funeral - This 1903 film shows most of the ceremonial portion of the funeral procession of Tom Kim Yung (1858-1903), military attache to the Chinese Legation to the United States.

Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

The Printed Ephemera collection comprises 28,000 primary-source items dating from the seventeenth century to the present and encompasses key events and eras in American history.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836-1922. Search this collection to find hundreds of newspaper articles about the Chinese Exclusion Act.

A selection of articles on the Chinese Exclusion Act:

In addition, the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room has created a series of topics guides to the newspapers included in Chronicling America, including a guide on the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Prints & Photographs

Search the Library's collections of prints and photographs to find images related to the Chinese Exclusion Act and Chinese immigration.

A selection of images includes:

The Teachers Page

American Memory Timeline: Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1851-1900.

This presentation discusses Chinese immigration from 1851 to 1900 and links to related primary source documents.

Immigration: Chinese

This feature presentation introduces teachers and students to the topic of immigration, including information on the Chinese immigration experience and the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Today in History

September 2

On September 2, 1885, a mob of white coal miners attacked their Chinese co-workers (both groups were employed by the Union Pacific Coal Company) in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, over a dispute on who had the right to work in a particularly lucrative area of the mine.

External Web Sites

Chew Heong v. United States: Chinese Exclusion and the Federal Courts, Federal Judicial Center

Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion, External Link New-York Historical Society

The Chinese-American Experience: 1857-1892, External Link HarpWeek

Chinese in California, 1850-1925, External Link The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley; The Ethnic Studies Library, University of California Berkeley; and The California Historical Society.

Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian

Immigration to the US, 1789-1930: Chinese Exclusion Act, External Link Harvard University Library

Our Documents, Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Ahmad, Diana L. The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Chan, Sucheng, ed. Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882–1943. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. [Catalog Record]

Gold, Martin. Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.S. Congress: A Legislative History. Alexandria, Va.: TheCapital.Net, 2012. [Catalog Record]

Gyory, Andrew. Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. [Catalog Record]

Lau, Estelle T. Paper Families: Identity, Immigration Administration, and Chinese Exclusion. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Lee, Erika. At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. [Catalog Record]

McClain, Charles J. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. [Catalog Record]

Miller, Stuart Creighton. The Unwelcome Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, 1785-1882. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. [Catalog Record]

Riggs, Fred Warren. Pressures on Congress: A Study of the Repeal of Chinese Exclusion. New York: King's Crown Press, 1950. [Catalog Record] [Full Text] External Link

Salyer, Lucy E. Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. [Catalog Record]

Soennichsen, John Robert. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood, 2011. [Catalog Record]

Vickery, John N. The Chinese Exclusion Laws: A Selective Annotated Bibliography of Federal Public Documents. Chapel Hill, N.C.: [s.n.], 2005. [Full Text] External Link

Wong, K. Scott and Sucheng Chan, eds. Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities During the Exclusion Era. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Teitelbaum, Michael. Chinese Immigrants. New York: Facts On File, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Thornton, Jeremy. The Gold Rush: Chinese Immigrants Come to America (1848-1882). New York: PowerKids Press, 2004. [Catalog Record]

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  April 25, 2017
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