1875: The Oriental Exclusion Act bars entry of Chinese, Japanese, prostitutes, felons, and contract laborers, to “end the danger of cheap Chinese labor and immoral Chinese women.” It effectively bars all Asian women, “…few of whom,” says President Grant, “are brought to our shores to pursue honorable or useful occupations.” The American Medical Association argues that Chinese immigrants “carried distinct germs to which they were immune, but from which whites would die if exposed.”
1876: Following the end of Reconstruction, thousands of municipalities (known as “Sundown Towns”) begin to establish restrictions that exclude non-whites, and in some cases, Jews, after sunset, on penalty of death.
1878-1930: Over 4,000 people, overwhelmingly African-American, will be lynched. During this same period, military and police forces (including the Texas Rangers) and vigilantes murder between several hundred and 5,000 Mexican-Americans along the borderlands.
1879: The Carlisle Indian Industrial School becomes a model for others to be established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It utilizes forced assimilation to Christian culture and abandonment of Native American traditions.
1882: The Chinese Exclusion Law suspends immigration of laborers for ten years. It prohibits “any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge” from entering the country. Prior to this date, nearly anyone except for the Chinese and Japanese who crossed the borders had been considered legal. The term “illegal immigrant” is first used. It is possibly the first time in recorded history that a country denies entrance to people based exclusively on their skin color or country of origin. The 1880s will see seven major white-on-black race riots.
1885: The Alien Contract Labor Law prohibits the importation of foreigners to perform labor, including “professional actors, artists, lecturers, or singers (and) persons employed as strictly personal or domestic servants.”
1887: The Dawes Act grants citizenship to Native Americans who are willing to disassociate themselves from their tribe. Utah is the second territory to allow women to vote, but the federal Edmunds–Tucker Act repeals woman’s suffrage there.
1888: The Supreme Court affirms (and will repeatedly re-affirm) that corporations have all the rights of people.
1889: Oklahoma’s first “land rush” occurs as the federal government opens nearly two million acres to settlement. Additional land rushes will occur in 1891 (twice), 1893 and 1895.
1890: The government assumes control of immigration and constructs the Ellis Island Inspection Station. It will eventually process 12 million immigrants, who will become the ancestors of 100 million Americans. The Bureau of Immigration is created to enforce federal immigration laws, especially the ban on Asians. All reservations in Indian Territory are annexed into the new Oklahoma Territory. The 7th Cavalry attacks and kills 130-250 Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. The 1890s will see nine major race riots.
1891: A New Orleans mob lynches a group of eleven Italian-Americans. The government issues a compulsory attendance law enabling federal officers to forcibly take Native American children from their homes and reservations. In Oklahoma territory a land lottery is held instead of another land rush.
1892: The Geary Act requires all Chinese to carry resident permits on penalty of deportation and prohibits them from testifying in court.
1896: The Plessy vs Ferguson decision (“Separate but equal”) legalizes segregation.
1898: The Supreme Court rules that a child born in the U.S. of parents of Chinese nationality is a citizen. The Curtis Act amends the Dawes Act. It results in the break-up of tribal governments and communal lands in Oklahoma. The Five Civilized Tribes who had suffered the Trail of Tears had previously been exempt because of the terms of their treaties. They lose control of over 90 million acres.
1899: The Oklahoma Territorial Legislature prohibits the practices and healing ceremonies of native medicine men, who are subject to fines or imprisonment.
1901: A series of Supreme Court decisions known as the “Insular Acts” determines that full citizenship rights do not extend to all places under American control, especially islands where people of color live (“savage” and “alien races”) who cannot understand “Anglo-Saxon principles.” This permanently excludes Puerto Ricans, Samoans and many others from voting for President. The decade will see eleven large race riots.
1902: The government funds 25 non-reservation schools in 15 states and territories, enrolling over 6,000 students. Anti-Semitic riots occur in New York City.
1902-1904: Chinese exclusion is extended and then made indefinite.
1903: The Immigration Act of 1903 is also called the Anarchist Exclusion Act.
1905: The Cherokee, Creek, Seminole and Choctaw nations create a constitution for a proposed state of Sequoyah, which would be distinct from Oklahoma. Congress ignores them.
1906: Theodore Roosevelt declares in his State of the Union Message, “The greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration, especially by black men, of the hideous crime of rape – the most abominable in all the category of crimes, even worse than murder.” The Burke Act amends the Dawes Act, dissolving sovereign tribal governments and communal lands. It requires the government to assess whether individuals are “competent and capable” before granting them their allotted land. Citizenship is not to be granted to Native Americans until the end of a 25-year probationary period. White mobs kill between 25 and 100 blacks in Atlanta.
1907: Oklahoma becomes a state. Congress again lowers the threshold for exclusions to include “All idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons, and persons who have been insane within five years previous; persons who have had two or more attacks of insanity at any time previously; paupers; persons likely to become a public charge; professional beggars; persons afflicted with tuberculosis or with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease…”The Expatriation Act decrees that any naturalized citizen residing for two years in one’s foreign state of origin or five years in any other foreign state or any American woman who marries an alien loses their citizenship.
1909: Nativists destroy a Greek immigrant community in South Omaha, Nebraska.
1910: The Angel Island Immigration Station begins operation in San Francisco Bay to monitor the flow of Chinese entering the country. It will eventually hold hundreds of thousands. By 1915, Japanese immigrants will outnumber Chinese. At Ellis, only 1-3% of all arriving immigrants will be rejected, while at Angel, due to anti-Asian discrimination, the number will be about 18%. While Ellis arrivals enter the country almost immediately, Asians are frequently imprisoned on Angel for many months. Nationwide riots follow the heavyweight championship victory of Jack Johnson. Whites kill dozens of blacks in Slocum, Texas.
1913: The 17th Amendment gives voters rather than state legislatures the right to elect senators.
1917: Congress requires that immigrants pass a literacy test. It bars immigration from the Asia-Pacific Zone and creates new categories of inadmissible persons, including: “alcoholics,” “anarchists,” “contract laborers,” “criminals and convicts,” “epileptics,” “feebleminded persons,” “idiots,” “illiterates,” “imbeciles,” “insane persons,” “paupers,” “persons afflicted with contagious disease,” “persons being mentally or physically defective,” “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority,” “political radicals,” “polygamists,” “prostitutes” and “vagrants.”
1917: White rioters kill 100-200 black residents of East St. Louis.
1918: Servicemen of Asian ancestry who served in World War I receive the right of naturalization.
1919: American Indian soldiers and sailors receive citizenship. The Palmer raids during the Red Scare result in the deportation of 500 non-citizens. Twenty-five white-on-black urban race riots occur during the summer.
1920: The 20th Amendment gives women the right to vote.
1921: The Emergency Quota Act establishes numerical limits and quotas “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity.” It prohibits the immigration of Arabs, East Asians and Indians, and it restricts the number of immigrants admitted from any country annually to 3% of the residents from that country living in the U.S. in 1910. So people from northern Europe have a higher quota than people from eastern or southern Europe or non-European countries. The number of new immigrants admitted falls from 800,000 in 1920 to 300,00 in 1921-22. In the worst incident of racial violence in American history, white mobs attack blacks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They destroy more than 35 square blocks and kill 100-300 blacks.
1922: Congress partially reverses former immigration laws regarding marriage and allows women to retain their US citizenship after marrying a (non-Asian) alien if she stays within the United States.
1923: White mobs destroy the black town of Rosewood, Florida, killing up to 150.
1924: Native Americans receive the right to vote. Congress establishes the Border patrol on the Mexico border. The National Origins Act further restricts immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe and requires for the first time that immigrants have visas. It introduces the concept of “having papers” to immigration policy. Almost none of those who immigrated “legally” prior to this point would be admitted under these far more stringent standards. It establishes deportation courts for non-white immigrants and Eastern and Southern European immigrants who exceed their national quotas. Subsequent court rulings will determine that Asian Indians are not white and cannot immigrate. The act puts an end to a period where the United States essentially had open borders.
Since persons of mixed white and Native American ancestry are considered white, the law continues to allow Latin Americans to immigrate as “white persons” in unlimited numbers, despite being ineligible for citizenship. While it spares Mexico a quota, secondary laws, including one that makes it a crime to enter the country outside official ports of entry, give border and customs agents on-the-spot discretion to decide who can enter legally. This turns what had been a routine daily or seasonal event — crossing the border to go to work — into a ritual of abuse. Degrading hygienic inspections, literacy tests and entrance fees are introduced.
1925-1936: Nearly two million Mexicans are deported, most without due process. Sixty percent are U.S. citizens, most of whom have never been to Mexico. The Ku Klux Klan grows to 4-5 million members, including thousands of Protestant ministers.
1929: The Registry Act allows aliens to register as permanent residents if they can prove they have lived in the U.S. since 1921 and are of “good moral character.” Between 1925 and 1965, 200,000 illegal Europeans will use this law to legalize their status.
1929-1933: During the Depression, more people emigrate from the United States than to it.
1931: Congress allows females to retain their citizenship even if they marry an Asian.
1930s: Until this decade, most legal immigrants have been male.
1936-1945: The U.S. refuses to admit most Jewish refugees of the Nazis.
1940: Angel Island closes.