In October 1871, Los Angeles was a small town with only 6,000 people, so when 19 Chinese people were killed in a massacre in Chinatown the city lost 10% of its ethnic Chinese population.
The Chinese Massacre of 1871 was the first in a series of riots and killings documented along the Pacific Coast. It was in the midst of these racist attacks that the U.S. government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.
Despite its severity and importance, this chapter of U.S. history has remained largely and dangerously unknown.
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Chinese Massacre of 1871, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the UCLA Asia Pacific Center, along with the Chinese American Museum and Scripps College, are co-organizing a livestreamed performance featuring music, movement, remarks from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and distinguished guests on Sunday, Oct. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.
“We commissioned this work as an invitation to all to join us as part of a movement to acknowledge this dark, brutal and little-known history, and move forward into a brighter, more inclusive future,” said Karen Umemoto, holder of the Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the Asian American Studies Center.
The musical performance will feature the cast and crew of the podcast drama “Blood on Gold Mountain” including narrator Hao Huang, Bessie and Cecil Frankel Chair in Music at Scripps College, with accompaniment by Psychopomp Contemporary Ensemble and original songs by the Flower Pistils.
Huang was also the producer of “Blood on Gold Mountain,” a multi-episode original storytelling series about the Chinese Massacre of 1871, that was released in March and which has helped garner media attention around this moment from Los Angeles’ past and how it reverberates into the present.
Movement artist Young-Tseng Wong helps bring the story to life and the UCLA Chinese Music Ensemble will make an appearance.
The live performance will be filmed in downtown Los Angeles where the massacre took place. Due to COVID-19 safety considerations, the public is asked to register for virtual access to the program.
The commemorative program will also include a K-12 teacher-training workshop on Sunday, Oct. 17, from 1 to 2 p.m. via Zoom.
During the workshop, which is co-organized by the UCLA History-Geography Project in the School of Education and the Asian Pacific Center, instructors will be introduced to a lesson developed for KCET’s “Lost L.A.” program. Throughout the lesson, students explore the complexities of race, violence and vigilante justice in early-American Los Angeles.
The lesson aims to raise awareness and stimulate thoughtful discussion among students in addressing the following questions: Why did the Chinese Massacre of 1871 happen? And what does that tell us about Los Angeles during that time? Participants will experience parts of the lesson and will leave with resources that they can use to teach this revealing local history in their classrooms.
One of the goals of the Asian American Studies Center and the UCLA Asia Pacific Center is to expand access to ethnic studies curriculum for teachers.
“Understanding the past helps us address problems we face today and possibilities for the future, and the immigrant experiences of the victims of the 1871 massacre resonate with diasporic communities today,” said Min Zhou, director of the Asia Pacific Center and a sociologist specializing in North American Chinatowns and diasporic Chinese communities.
A related panel discussion titled “Reflecting on Historical and Contemporary Anti-Asian Racism” will take place virtually via Zoom from noon to 1:30 pm on Friday, Oct. 22.
Chaired by Zhou and moderated by Umemoto, the discussion will feature three panelists including Huang; Hiroshi Motomura, the Susan Westerberg Prager Distinguished Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA; and Eugene Moy, a community scholar and activist raised in Los Angeles Chinatown, who has been involved with public history and historic preservation for many years.
The panel will shed more light on the Chinese Massacre of 1871, in search of insights that help address the rise of anti-Asian hate today.
This commemorative program is funded by the UCLA Chancellor’s Arts Initiative — an annual program designed to foster the advancement of the arts and arts-related scholarship at UCLA by supporting faculty research and creative activities in the arts.
Recipients of Arts Initiative funding are featured on the GoArts portal, a digital platform designed to bring together the university’s arts organizations with the goal of articulating and amplifying the power of the arts to elevate and enrich lives.
Support also came from the Walter & Shirley Wang Endowed Chair’s Fund, the Xiangli Chen China and Beyond Forum, the Helen and Morgan Chu Chair’s Fund and the Stanley Kwok Lau and Dora Wong Lau Endowment.