Sarah E Jones
February 9, 2018
Project Proposal: Denis Kearney and the Anti-Chinese Movement
This paper is going to look at Denis Kearney, an Irish immigrant, who eventually became the leader of the Workingmen’s Party of California in the late nineteenth-century. More specifically, the research will question what role Kearney played in the Anti-Chinese Movement of the late nineteenth-century, which promoted violence, negative caricatures, and discriminatory legislative against Chinese Americans and immigrants. Kearney, with his charismatic personality and with support from white working-class men, played a significant role in the Anti-Chinese Movement, including influencing the creation of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which excluded Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States.
There will be a number of primary and secondary sources used for this research paper. The primary sources used will mostly consist of newspaper articles written about Kearney and his Workingmen’s Party of California, and how they influenced hate-related attitudes towards the Chinese in California. One particular article gives the text of a speech that Kearney made in Washington D.C. and the crowd’s reactions. When Kearney used violent imagery to describe how the “workingmen of America are going to win,” even “if they had to wade knee deep in blood,” the author taking note of this speech also took note of the audience’s “laughter and applause.” Another primary source is a newspaper article from the Daily Los Angeles Harold that is an opinion piece on Kearney and his campaigning.
The secondary sources to be used will include both academic books and academic journal articles. These sources will show a timeline of events that led up to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and Kearney’s role in promoting it. Some works cover the history of the anti-Chinese movement in California, but they still manage to discuss how Kearney and his Workingmen’s Party had an influence in the anti-Chinese sentiment. Elmer Clarence Sandmeyer claims that the activities of Kearney and his party were “so spectacular that there has been a widespread tendency to look upon it as constituting the major part of the movement against the Chinese.”
The significance of this project of is tied to the power of American nativism. Hate-filled rhetoric and violence from organizations or individuals can be found throughout American history. Throughout history, there have been and currently are pockets of hate-filled rhetoric from groups or masses of people in a nation. They usually target specific groups of people who are seen as “different,” since they namely are not white, male, Protestant, or heterosexual. Within these movements, there is typically a source that either sparks hatred, or fans the flames. Denis Kearney is one such person, who targeted Chinese Americans and blamed them for society’s problems. While there were other factors that lead to the Anti-Chinese Movement and the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Denis Kearney certainly had an effect.
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