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1871 Chinese Massacre

Massacre, Chinese, Los Angeles, 1871

Victims of the 1871 Chinese massacre in Los Angeles. From Security Pacific National Bank Collection at Los Angeles Public Library.

One of the darkest episodes in Los Angeles history was the 1871 Chinese Massacre. The event was preceded by simmering anti-Chinese bigotry and, within Chinatown itself (presently where Union Station is located), conflict between two competing tongs (gangs). On the evening of October 24, several white constables entered Chinatown to break up an argument between members of the tongs. Whether by anger or accident, a white man ended up dead by gunshot wound. Shortly thereafter, a mob of 500 non-Asian Angelenos (approximately eight percent of L.A.'s population at the time) began hunting down and assaulting every Chinese male they could find, including those who had nothing to do with the earlier incident. After five hours, the mob had killed at least 17 men and a teenage boy (only one victim might have been implicated in the initial death of the white man). Chinese homes and businesses were also looted. Eleven white men, including Sheriff James Burns and prominent Angeleno Robert Widney, had attempted to stop the mobs, but were themselves overwhelmed. The mob even shot and killed one of the white men trying to protect the Chinese. The incident drew national attention and provoked a grand jury investigation. Seven men were held responsible and convicted for the riots, but only one actually served any jail time.

Calle de los Negros, Los Angeles, Circa 1882

View of Calle de Los Negros, looking north, in Los Angeles, Circa 1882. From California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.

Victims of the Massacre:

  • Ah Wing (Pico House worker)
  • Dr. Chee Long "Gene" Tong (physician and herbalist)
  • Chang Wan (Dr. Tong's housemate)
  • Leong Quai (laundryman)
  • Ah Long (cigar maker)
  • Wan Foo (cook)
  • Tong Won (cook and popular musician)
  • Ah Loo (teeager, about 15-years-old)
  • Day Kee (cook)
  • Ah Waa (cook)
  • Ho Hing (cook)
  • Lo Hey (cook)
  • Ah Wong (cook)
  • Wing Chee (cook)
  • Wong Chin (storekeeper)
  • Johnny Burrow (laundryman)
  • Ah Cut (liquor maker)
  • Wa Sin Quai

L.A. VIDEO: The Chinese Massacre: One of Los Angeles' Worst Atrocities

Chinese Massacre, Los Angeles, 1871