Antioch Formally Apologizes for Mistreating Chinese Residents in Late 1800s

Antioch became the first city in California and the U.S. to officially apologize for the mistreatment of Chinese residents between 1850 and 1870, said Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

The atrocities: At a special meeting held on Tuesday, Thorpe said the city never acknowledged its racist and xenophobic past when Antioch became known at the height of the issue as a sundown town, East Bay Times reported.

  • Thorpe explained city officials between 1850 and 1870 passed a law banning Chinese residents from walking the streets after dark. The residents had to make tunnels where they could travel between their businesses and their homes.
  • Mobs of white residents banded together to drive out Chinese immigrants in the city in 1876. They gave Chinese residents a few hours to vacate their homes before one of the aggressors torched their homes, businesses and Chinatown.
  • A Sacramento Bee article, with a headline that reads “The Caucasian Torch,” said the incident “lighted the way of the heathen out of the wilderness.”
  • Antioch is one of the cities in the U.S. to participate in “The Driving Out,” Axios reported.
  • “I think the only way to get to reconciling is acknowledging a harm,” Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “You can’t reconcile and bring people together until harm is acknowledged. And so given a long history of Antioch, it just makes sense that this happens, and then we move forward as a community.”

Other details: The city will also work with the Antioch Historical Society and other organizations to create and fund exhibits or murals that acknowledge the contributions of early Chinese immigrants in Antioch.

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  • The city’s council members also agreed to designate a Chinese historic district downtown.
  • “If we’re going to do this, I think we should do it the right way…let’s don’t do it halfway,” Councilman Mike Barbanica said.

Featured Image via KPIX 5

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