On September 2, 1885, a riot occurred in Rock Springs over
labor and race disputes. As a result, 28 Chinese miners were
killed and Chinatown was razed. Chinatown was located in
front of you across Pilot Butte Avenue. The Chinese eventually
returned and no one was prosecuted for the murders. Listed below
are the names of the fallen Chinese.
WE HONOR YOUR MEMORY
(28 Names Listed)
"The Rock Springs massacre, also known as the Rock Springs Riot, occurred on September 2, 1885, in the present-day United States city of Rock Springs in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. The riot, between Chinese immigrant miners and white immigrant miners, was the result of racial tensions and an ongoing labor dispute over the Union Pacific Coal Department's policy of paying Chinese miners lower wages than white miners. This policy caused the Chinese to be hired over the white miners, which further angered the white miners and contributed to the riot. When the rioting ended, at least 28 Chinese miners were dead and 15 were injured. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes resulting in approximately US$150,000 in property damage ($4 million in present-day terms).
Tension between whites and Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century American West was particularly high, especially in the decade preceding the violence. The massacre in Rock Springs was the violent outburst of years of anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act suspended Chinese immigration for ten years, but not before thousands of immigrants came to the American West. Most Chinese immigrants to Wyoming Territory took jobs with the railroad at first, but many ended up employed in coal mines owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. As Chinese immigration increased, so did anti-Chinese sentiment from whites. The Knights of Labor, one of the foremost voices against Chinese immigrant labor, formed a chapter in Rock Springs in 1883, and most rioters were members of that organization. However, no direct connection was ever established linking the riot to the national Knights of Labor organization.
In the immediate aftermath of the riot, federal troops were deployed in Rock Springs. They escorted the surviving Chinese miners, most of whom had fled to Evanston, Wyoming, back to Rock Springs a week after the riot. Reaction came swiftly from the era's publications. In Rock Springs, the local newspaper endorsed the outcome of the riot, while in other Wyoming newspapers, support for the riot was limited to sympathy for the causes of the white miners. The massacre in Rock Springs touched off a wave of anti-Chinese violence, especially in the Puget Sound area of Washington Territory."
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