Builders of West may get apology

California state legislators are considering issuing an apology for anti-Chinese actions taken by the state in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A resolution sponsored by Assemblymembers Paul Fong and Kevin de Leon recognizes the Chinese for building the transcontinental railroad, mining, and constructing levees that made farmland.

The Chinese built most of the Central Pacific, the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, as well as other lines, such as the Nevada-California-Oregon road (later known as the Western Pacific, whose rails cross Fourth Street in Reno near Evans Avenue).

In Nevada, the Chinese were known for growing fine produce along the Carson River and as merchants, particularly laundry workers. In 1886, Reno business leaders built a “white laundry” in order to drive Chinese laundries out of business. What scholars have called “the last overtly anti-Chinese incident” in Reno occurred in November 1908 when local officials—acting under the fig leaf of a health department order—burned Reno’s Chinatown (except for Chinese brothels used by whites) to the ground. Anti-Chinese sentiment in Nevada even attracted the notice of the New York Times. Other instances of anti-Chinese incidents in Nevada can be found on our Newsview blog.