Since they lacked the fundamental rights of citizenship, Chinese immigrants in
late nineteenth century America were not active in local government. Instead,
they became dependent upon mutual help societies that were often based on
relationships and districts that had been common in their home country. These
groups generally adhered to Chinese law and customs and remained true to their
home clans. These localized allegiances hindered the formation of larger, more
inclusive (and potentially more politically powerful) organizations that might
have worked for rights and representation within county and state government.
Below is a list of the more common organizations and the roles they
played in a laborer's life.
Chinese Six Communities
An umbrella organization founded in 1862 in an attempt to coordinate the six
independent Chinatown groups and provide the immigrants with a political voice.
The basic unit in Chinese organizations founded on intimate friendships
that pre-dated emigration from the members' homeland.
Translated as "meeting hall," this organization was usually run by a
democratically elected official. This group maintained altars to local
deities and served as a club and meeting house.|
Kong Chow Association
The first formal Chinese organization in California, it was named after a defunct
geographical term that encompassed six districts in China. This association
attempted to establish itself as a large organization with many members by
representing an area where a number of immigrants had arrived from.|
An area in China that claimed a larger number of immigrants than the Kong Chow.
When this association formed in 1851, it took a number of members away from the
Kong Chow Association.|
A secret society first founded in 1852 and born of nationalistic and anti-Ch'ing
dynasty sentiments. Completely different from Chinese help organizations, these
groups often promoted criminal activity and violence.|