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Anti-Chinese Massacre of 1871

Chinese men standing together, B&W Photo
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In this lesson students explore the complexities of race, violence, and vigilante justice in early American Los Angeles. In 1871, the population of Los Angeles was 6,000 people. This diverse population participated in the lynching of nearly 20 Chinese in Los Angeles. Why did the Chinese Massacre of 1871 happen? And what does that tell us about early American Los Angeles? That is the question students must answer through watching a segment of of Lost L.A., then reading and analyzing documents to develop their own answer. This lesson works best when students have background knowledge about 2 key historical trends: lynching and anti-Chinese sentiment in the West.

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Long before Hollywood imagined the Wild West, Los Angeles was a real frontier town of gunslingers, lynch mobs, and smoke-belching locomotives. This episode examines L.A.'s efforts to reckon with its violent past by examining hanging trees, remnants of vigilant justice; the massacre of eighteen Chinese immigrants that took place in 1871 near what is now Olvera Street; and railroad promotional campaigns that painted a picture of Los Angeles as a verdant paradise.
Wild West

Lesson: What were the causes of the Anti-Chinese Massacre?

Download Lesson Plan (PDF)

The lesson plan author has also prepared a slide presentation, available here.

Content Standards

11.2.2: Describe the purpose, challenges, and economic incentives associated with westward expansion, including the concept of Manifest Destiny (e.g., the Lewis and Clark expedition, accounts of the removal of Indians, the Cherokees’ “Trail of Tears,” settlement of the Great Plains) and the territorial acquisitions that spanned numerous decades.

CCSS Standards

CCSS.ELA-READING FOR LITERACY IN HISTORY.RH.11-12.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

CCSS.ELA-READING FOR LITERACY IN HISTORY.RH.11-12.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-READING FOR LITERACY IN HISTORY.RH.11-12.3: Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

CCSS. ELA-WRITING FOR LITERACY IN HISTORY. WHST.11-12.1a.b.e: Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.

UCLA History Geography Project USC Libraries Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West KCET

The Lost LA Curriculum project is a collaboration among KCET (Public Media Group of Southern California), USC Libraries, the UCLA History-Geography Project and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

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