Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Second-generation Chinese Americans, hoping to change the traditional thinking of their elders and the racist bias of whites regarding assimilation with American mainstream culture, formed an alliance to address the concerns of Chinese immigrants and their American-born families. Their organization became a major social and political force for the Chinese American community of San Francisco and other U.S. cities.

Summary of Event

Chinese immigration to the United States began during the mid-nineteenth century. The migration pattern of the Chinese was the same wherever they went: Peasants from rural areas in China migrated to cities looking for work, without securing a sustainable income, and men (mostly young men) left China while their families remained. Their purpose in leaving was twofold: to earn money to send home to their families and to return to China once they secured sufficient money (around five hundred dollars) to support their families comfortably. Chinese American Citizens Alliance San Francisco;Chinese immigrants Native Sons of the Golden State California;Native Sons of the Golden State Chinese immigrants;Native Sons of the Golden State California;Chinese immigrants [kw]Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State (May 10, 1895) [kw]Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State, Chinese (May 10, 1895) [kw]Form Native Sons of the Golden State, Chinese Californians (May 10, 1895) [kw]Native Sons of the Golden State, Chinese Californians Form (May 10, 1895) [kw]Sons of the Golden State, Chinese Californians Form Native (May 10, 1895) [kw]Golden State, Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the (May 10, 1895) Chinese American Citizens Alliance San Francisco;Chinese immigrants Native Sons of the Golden State California;Native Sons of the Golden State Chinese immigrants;Native Sons of the Golden State California;Chinese immigrants [g]United States;May 10, 1895: Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State[6030] [c]Immigration;May 10, 1895: Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State[6030] [c]Civil rights and liberties;May 10, 1895: Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State[6030] [c]Social issues and reform;May 10, 1895: Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State[6030] [c]Organizations and institutions;May 10, 1895: Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State[6030] Dick, Chun

Travel to the United States was beyond the financial capability of most Chinese, so to secure passage to America most indentured themselves (contracted their labor in advance) to a merchant or a labor agent, a system called the credit-ticket arrangement whereby merchants advanced Chinese money for passage to the United States and kept collecting it for years.

The California gold rush of 1848-1849 had drawn many with its promises of gold-filled streets; in fact, the Chinese name for San Francisco is “Old Gold Mountain.” Not all Chinese immigrants, however, willingly left China. Many emigrated because of famine Famines;Chinese and political and social unrest in southern China. Others were victims of the so-called Pig Trade, which replaced slavery after it was outlawed following the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). They chose the United States because of exaggerated tales of wealth and opportunity spread by traders and missionaries.

After the Chinese landed in the United States, labor agents, under the credit-ticket arrangement, gained almost complete domination of their indentured workers and kept them in isolated communities which the agents controlled. These areas became known as Chinatowns. Moreover, many Chinese, not wanting to remain permanently in the United States, had little incentive to assimilate. Their unwillingness or inability to become acculturated into the American “melting pot” became an indictment against all Chinese. Although most Chinese wanted to return to China, many could not secure sufficient money for return passage and never returned to their homeland.

Life in California during the late nineteenth century was difficult at best for most Chinese. The Chinese communities organized Hui-Guan (merchant guilds) that served as welcoming committees, resettlement assistance services, and mutual help societies for newly arrived immigrants. Chinese immigrants were also organized by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (also known as the Chinese Six Companies), originally agents of Chinese firms in Hong Kong Hong Kong who had established the “coolie trade” "Coolies"[Coolies] to San Francisco. (“Coolie” is a derogatory term used to name unskilled laborers.) The Six Companies kept traditional Chinese rules, customs, and values as the basis for appropriate behavior, helping protect Chinese from an increasingly anti-Chinese atmosphere.

Anti-Chinese sentiments and violence against Chinese began almost as soon as they arrived in North America. These attitudes existed at the top levels of government and labor unions as well as with local citizens. During the mid- to late nineteenth century, various political parties, including the Know-Nothing Party, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party, promoted anti-Chinese platforms. During this time, workers’ unions organized anti-Chinese activities, and anti-Asian sentiments were propagated by newspapers in western states.

In 1871, about twenty Chinese in Los Angeles Los Angeles;Chinese residents were killed and their homes and businesses looted and burned. In 1877, a similar incident occurred in San Francisco. In Chico, California, five farmers were murdered. Anti-Chinese riots Wyoming;anti-Chinese riots[AntiChinese riots] Race riots;anti-Asian[antiAsian] broke out in Denver, Colorado, and in Rock Springs, Wyoming. In 1885, Chinese workers, employed as strikebreakers, were killed at a Wyoming coal mine. Chinese residents in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Washington State;anti-Chinese riots[AntiChinese riots] were driven out of town and thirty-one Chinese were robbed and murdered in Snake River, Oregon. Oregon;anti-Chinese riots[AntiChinese riots] Race riots;anti-Asian[antiAsian] In 1905, sixty-seven labor organizations, in order to prevent employers from hiring Asians, formed the Asiatic Exclusion League.

During the early 1890’s, the Chinese Six Companies lost face when they influenced Chinese not to sign documents required by the Geary Act (1892), an extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 , which required all Chinese residing in the United States to obtain a certificate of eligibility with a photograph within a year. When the Geary Act was ruled legal, thousands of Chinese Americans became illegal immigrants in the United States.

Following the ruling on the act, the Tongs, secret societies of criminals that originated in China, used this opportunity to take control of the Chinatowns. The result was a vicious and bloody civil war among Chinese Americans—in which local police, for the most part, played a very limited role. Among first-generation Chinese, few actively opposed the rule of the Tongs. Perhaps accustomed to bandits, clan warfare, and warlords in southern China and imbued with the Daoist spirit of letting things alone, most Chinese did their best to survive without resisting Tong leaders.

Many young American-born Chinese opposed these “old ways” of doing things. They accepted the notion that they were never going to return to China and they wanted to adopt American ways and fit into American culture. They soon formed the group Native Sons of the Golden State in an effort to assimilate into American mainstream culture. Chun Dick Dick, Chun incorporated the group on May 10, 1895. He was followed by Walter U. Lum Lum, Walter U. , Joseph K. Lum Lum, Joseph K. , and Ng Gunn Gunn, Ng , who reorganized Native Sons several years later. The Native Sons’ headquarters was located on the second floor of a building at 753 Clay Street in San Francisco. The first officers were The Chen, Kun Wu, and Tai-yung Li.

The Native Sons of the Golden State emphasized the importance of naturalization and voters’ registration. All members were urged to become American citizens and to vote. The organization also encouraged active participation in the civic affairs of mainstream American life. The leaders thought that some of the anti-Chinese sentiments and discriminatory actions were, in part, due to the traditional attitudes and behaviors of the Chinese immigrants themselves: remaining isolated, not learning English, and not taking part in politics.


As the organization grew, it established chapters in Oakland, Los Angeles Los Angeles;Chinese residents , San Diego, Chicago, Portland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Boston, eventually changing its name to the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) in 1915 to recognize the chapters outside California. Women were accepted into the fraternal order in 1977.

In 1913, CACA defeated a California law designed to prevent Chinese from voting Voting rights;of Chinese immigrants[Chinese immigrants] . The group fought against the National Origins Act, or Immigration Act of 1924 Immigration Act of 1924 , and sought the right for Chinese men to bring their wives to the United States.

CACA helped defeat the Cinch bill of 1925, which attempted to regulate the manufacture and sale of Chinese medicinal products such as herbs and roots. By promoting numerous social functions—dances, sporting events, dinner parties, and the like—CACA also helped keep Chinese American communities together and moved them toward assimilation. CACA fought against the stereotyped portrayals of Chinese in films, newspapers, and magazines as heathens, drug addicts, or instigators of torture.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States Since 1850. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988. An excellent overall account of Asian America that includes a brief description of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dillon, Richard H. The Hatchet Men: The Story of the Tong Wars in San Francisco Chinatown. New York: Coward-McCann, 1962. A dated but interesting account of the violence in San Francisco’s early Chinatown under the “rule” of the Tongs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ng, Franklin, ed. Asian American Family Life and Community. New York: Garland, 1998. Examines the social, economic, and family histories of Asians in America. Includes the chapter “The Chinese American Citizens Alliance: An Effort in Assimilation, 1895-1965.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. 1989. Rev. ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998. An account of Asians coming to live in America, which provides some discussion of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in the 1940’s and the late 1980’s.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. The Chinese Experience in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. Places the alliance in historical context.

American Era of “Old” Immigration

California Gold Rush Begins

Chinese Begin Immigrating to California

Burlingame Treaty

Congress Enacts the Page Law

Arthur Signs the Chinese Exclusion Act

San Francisco’s Chinese Six Companies Association Forms

America’s “New” Immigration Era Begins

Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins

United States v. Wong Kim Ark

Categories: History