Chinese Chicago from 1893 to1943: Cultural Assimilation,Social Acceptance, andChinese-American Identitythrough the Lens of InterracialRelations and Class

Amy Qin

With a myriad of transportation and architectural advances,
Chicago grew faster than any other city in the United States at the turn
of the nineteenth century, jumping to become the nation’s second largest
city in 1890. Chicago emerged not only as an industrial powerhouse, but
also as a multicultural hub for transplants from rural Midwestern towns,
immigrants from Northern and Eastern Europe, and African Americans
resettling in northern cities during the Great Migration. Those who came
were, in the words of novelist Theodore Dreiser, “life-hungry for the vast
energy Chicago could offer to their appetites.”1
It was also in the midst of
this exciting backdrop that the frst Chinese migrants came to Chicago in
the 1870s. But unlike Chinese migrants in San Francisco who experienced
explicit anti-Chinese hostility, the Chinese in Chicago lived largely under the
radar of the public eye, as “the average Chicagoan was no more tolerant
toward Chinese than anybody else in the nation.”

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