Early California

Early California, Race: 1858

Slave Archy Lee gains freedom from a U.S. Commissioner in San Francisco after several thwarted attempts in various courts.

Early California, Race: 1860

Massacre of nearly 200 Indians near Eureka.

Early California, Women: 1860

CameronCameronAccording to the 1860 Census, 583 of the 681 Chinese women in San Francisco are prostitutes. Exploited and abused, many die very young; a small number are saved by Donaldina Cameron and other Christian mission workers.

Criminal Justice, Early California, Race: 1862

Legislature revokes the ban on African American testimony.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1862

To discourage Chinese immigration and competition from Chinese workers, the legislature levies the “Chinese Police Tax” of $2.50 per month on almost all Chinese immigrants.

In Lin Sing v. Washburn, the California Supreme Court invalidates the “Chinese Police Tax,” ruling that the state had overstepped its authority and legislated in an area - foreign commerce - that is the exclusive sphere of the federal government. This was the first case in which a Chinese immigrant legally challenged a state law as a violation of a federal law or the United States Constitution.

Early California, Race: 1863

Legislature excludes African American and Indian children from white schools.

Early California, Race: 1864

Racist cartoonRacist cartoonCharlotte Brown wins a lawsuit challenging the segregation of San Francisco streetcars.

Early California, Women: 1870

Women’s Suffrage Society founded to advocate for the right of women to vote.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights, Race: 1870

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act to protect freed slaves, but it includes provisions to ensure the right of Chinese immigrants to testify in court and prohibits state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes, licenses, or penalties on Chinese.

San Francisco passes the “Cubic Air” ordinance requiring every lodging house to provide at least 500 cubic feet of air per inhabitant. Though many overcrowded buildings exist in poor areas of San Francisco, this ordinance is enforced only in Chinatown. Many violators serve jail time rather than pay fines, so the city passes the “Queue” ordinance, requiring that male prisoners’ hair be cut to an inch of their scalps, as a means to force Chinese to pay fines.

Ho Ah Kow successfully sues to overturn the “queue” ordinance after his queue is cut off in jail. This was the first federal case to rule clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to noncitizens.

San Francisco supervisors pass the “Sidewalk Ordinance of 1870,” imposing the highest laundry license fee (more than 7 times the lowest fee) on laundries that do not use horse-drawn vehicles. The law targets Chinese laundrymen, who carry finished laundry to their customers on poles as they walk through the streets. Over the next 14 years, San Francisco passes other ordinances restricting the operation of laundries.

Eary California, Criminal Justice, Immigrants Rights, Race: 1871

In the worst mass lynching in California history, a mob of white and Latino vigilantes murders 19 Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles after gunfire between two rival Chinese syndicates kills a white rancher.

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