This Day In History: 28 Chinese Miners are Killed In Wyoming (1885)

On this day in history in the year 1885, there was a massacre of Chinese miners in Wyoming. Some 100 white men, mostly miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, set upon their Chinese fellow workers. The white miners killing 28 Chinese miners and wounded 15 others and they drove some 400 hundred Chinese people out of Rock Springs.

The white miners had been struggling to better their working conditions for several years and they had tried to set up a union. However, the Union Pacific Coal mine, who employed the men had thwarted their efforts to unionize and refused them better pay and conditions. The miners grew increasingly angry at this and their hard working conditions. Some blamed the many Chinese immigrants for their plight. The railroad company had brought the Chinese to Rock Springs, at first as strike breakers. The white miners had downed tools and the company brought in Chinese miners to work in the mines. This meant that the white miners efforts to force their employers to recognize their right to unionize and better conditions failed. The local miners are enraged and blame the Chinese for all their troubles. One day the Chinese are ordered to work the richest seam and this infuriates the local white miners. They form a mob and go on to attack the Chinese miners. The beat up any Chinese person that they meet and then they headed for Rock Spring’s ‘China Town’.  This was a series of shacks and tents where the Chinese miners and their family members lived. The white miners are armed with guns and makeshift weapons.

Chinese emigrants to America c 1880s

When they saw the armed mob approaching, many of the Chinese abandoned their homes and left the town immediately. But those who failed to escape are beaten and killed. A week later, the US army escorted the Chinese back to Rock Springs and protected them from further attack. The killers of the Chinese miners are never brought to justice; some 50 white miners are fired because of the violence.

The Rock Springs massacre was not an isolated incident and there was a lot of anti-Chinese feelings in America at this time. The Chinese had come to America like European immigrants to improve their lot in life. They had fled war, poverty, and famine in their native land. They are immediately persecuted and discriminated against when they reach the shores of America. They are blamed for all sorts of social ills, by US politicians, who used emotive  and racist language to attack the Chinese immigrants. In 1882 a law was passed that forbade immigration from China to the United States. The massacre at Rock Springs was unique in its savagery and brutality and it was possibly the bloodiest outbreak of anti-Chinese violence seen at the time. After 1885, the remaining Chinese in America are regularly discriminated against and continue to face the threat of attack.