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AAPIs organize in Humboldt for Chinese expulsion memorial

Best known for its towering redwoods, beautiful coast and now the cannabis industry, Humboldt County on the Northern California Coast has a dark side to its history, which some local Asian Americans are organizing to remember.

Humboldt Asians and Pacific Islanders In Solidarity (HAPI), a local nonprofit, is gathering donations for a memorial to “honor the history and culture of the first Chinese people in Humboldt County, California” and to remember the mass expulsion that nearly destroyed the community in 1885.

The City of Eureka and The Ink People have also joined HAPI’s Eureka Chinatown Project.

By the 1880s, Eureka had a bustling Chinatown that was the central hub for the Chinese workers drawn by Humboldt’s logging industry. But at the same time, American Sinophobia was getting worse—the Workingmen’s Party of California campaigned under the slogan “The Chinese must go!” in the late 1870s, and in 1882, Congress passed the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act.

That hatred was triggered when a local city councilman was caught in the crossfire of a shootout between two Chinese men, according to the North Coast Journal. White residents formed a vigilante ‘Committee of Fifteen’ that forced the hundred of Chinese people in Eureka onto two steamships headed for San Francisco, ethnically cleansing the town.

1885 Eureka Chinatown laundry. The sign in the background advertises Washing and Ironing by Tung Sing.
中文:1885Eureka唐人街洗衣店。
1885 Eureka Chinatown laundry. The sign in the background advertises Washing and Ironing by Tung Sing. 中文:1885Eureka唐人街洗衣店。. By North Coast Journal via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Further expulsions followed in smaller communities across Humboldt County and other parts of Northern California, recurring on the anniversary of the Eureka expulsion for several years afterwards.

Though nobody was killed in Eureka, related violence in Petaluma, Shasta County and Truckee resulted in deaths. As late as 1906, 23 Chinese cannery workers on the Eel River were forced out by White loggers, and it wasn’t until the 1950s that Asian Americans could return to public life.

The Eureka Chinatown Project aims to construct the monument on First and E Streets, near the neighborhood’s original location.

The plans for the monument, which HAPI hopes to start building next year, feature a river-shaped timeline symbolizing Chinese and Asian American residents of Eureka and a moon gate arch named after Charlie Moon, one of the Chinese Americans who steadfastly remained in Humboldt after the expulsions.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great move to memorialize this and other anti-Asian expulsions.

    I never knew about the Humboldt expulsion.

    And so many younger Asians know nothing about the Rock Springs, Wyoming or Los Angeles expulsions.

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