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The History of Chinatown
Most Americans have the impression that the Chinese in the United States live in Chinatowns, isolated from the broader community. Indeed, this stereo type was fairly accurate during the first hundred years of Chinese Immigration, between 1850 and 1950, when most Chinese immigrants were single men who lived in Chinatowns under a hierarchical social structure. Many works dealing with Chinese in United States show that the Chinese immigrated to the United States in three major waves.
The first wave, before 1882, came mainly from Kwangtung Province in Southeast China, primarily because of unrest caused by the Taiping road construction in the United States. Usually scholars treat the period between 1882 and 1943 as the second phase of Chinese immigration history, ending when the Chinese exclusion acts were repealed in 1943. The third wave of immigration came after 1965, when the Naturalization and Immigration Act repealed the discriminatory quota of 105 Chinese per year and extended the ceiling to 20,000 for each independent country.
Although San Francisco was the port of entry for Chinese immigrants, few actually settled there in the early period of Chinese immigration. However, after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, anti-Chinese sentiment in the larger society made it necessary for the Chinese to leave the farms, mines, and other areas where they worked and congregate in San Francisco's Chinatown.
For protection the Chinese also moved into other big cities such as New York, Chicago, and Boston and set up what today are known As "Chinatowns." Here they provided their own employment and services that were denied by the larger society, such as police protection and education.