The Chinatown War

china-town-war-scott-zesch-oxford-university-pressHatred, especially racial hatred, was, like greed, a powerful force in the West of 1871. Scott Zesch reminds us in The Chinatown War of a massacre of Chinese by whites in as shameful an atrocity as Arizona’s Camp Grant Massacre or Utah’s Mountain Meadows.

Los Angeles, still a dusty cowtown in 1871, tolerated a Chinatown of only 179 individuals, almost all men. Motivated by a false rumor of Chinese killing whites, a mob, posing as vigilantes, shot three Cantonese to death and lynched 15 more, mostly inoffensive cooks. A few white Angeleños protested the mass murder, but, understandably, lacked the guts to seriously challenge the frenzied mob’s blood lust.


—Richard H. Dillon, author of Hatchet Men: The Story of the Tong Wars in San Francisco’s Chinatown

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