I hadn’t planned to get into the Chinese Massacre until I wrapped up the Zoot Suit Riots, but Google’s recent changes in its news archives pressed me to get the material online before the newspapers disappear.
For decades, the average reader has had no recourse but later accounts of the 1871 Chinese Massacre. Recent innovations in digitized newspapers, however, allow anyone with a computer — and lots of patience — to access the original stories.
Several months ago, in rummaging around in online newspapers, I found this stunning coverage of the massacre, filed as it occurred, with breaking updates. In reading these paragraphs, the intervening 140 years evaporates and the slaughter becomes fresh and immediate once again.
Even more incredible, the story appears in the Daily Southern Cross of Auckland, New Zealand, Dec. 9, 1871, which shows just how far newspapers were circulated in the 19th century.
Here’s a sample:
Horrible beyond description has been the history of these last few hours. Chinamen, helpless, torn and mangled, more dead than alive, have been dragged by an infuriated, senseless and reckless crowd, through our peaceable streets, in the very face of the better portion of the community, to finish what little was left of their agonized existence at the end of the rope, amidst the exultant shouts and jeers of the mob.
Notice the references to “Negro Alley,” where the massacre occurred.
The so-called “better men” they talk about in these stories helped lynch African Americans throughout the South, as well as other minorities throughout the country.
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