With anti-Chinese violence mounting in the West, Chinese immigrants arrived in significant numbers in the New York area in the late 1870’s. Discrimination forced immigrants into low-status service jobs in restaurants and hand laundries.
On Mott Street, a small Chinese grocery store, Wo Kee, opened, and workers patronized the shop. More businesses catering specifically to the needs of Chinese opened, such as barber shops, herbal shops, and general stores like Quong Yuen Shing at 32 Mott. A Chinese community began to take root.
The Chinese Exclusion Act
The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 prohibited laborers and their families from entering America and immigrants already in the country from obtaining citizenships. The absence of women and children turned the community into a “”bachelor society.”” It was the first and only racially based legislation in U.S. history. The Exclusion Act was repealed 60 years later in 1943 when China and the U.S.became allies in World War II.
It was out of limited opportunities imposed on the Chinese that some merchants began to encourage tourism in Chinatown. If they could not get jobs outside of Chinatown, why not bring outsiders into the community? Chinatown, therefore, not only served as the center of immigrant social, cultural, and recreational activity, but in this manner, the segregated ghetto, became a tourist attraction.