Underground History

Okay, kids, pop quiz. Fill in the blanks in these sentences:

1) In Phoenix, the __________ have "a virtual monopoly of the gardening trade . . . perform most of the household work, and all of the laundry business."

2) "The _________ have a faculty of locating in the most favored section of every city which they determine to occupy. They are now doing this in Phoenix and their 'town' is fast becoming a nuisance that will soon require abating. Just now it is tolerable, but the date is not far distant when we will have the same troubles as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno and other cities now have to contend with."

Time's up. Put down your pencils.

The correct answer? "Chinese." Yes, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Chinese immigrants in Phoenix -- like so many immigrants have been -- were despised by "the dominant culture."

You can take a field trip and really dig beneath the surface of the history of the Chinese in Phoenix this Saturday, September 22, at the Pueblo Grande Museum's Chinatown Workshop for Kids. It's billed as an opportunity to "explore historic archaeology through Phoenix's Chinatown," where participants will learn "how we tell fact from fiction through archaeology." The facts in this case seem depressing enough, but, hey, we're always up for a field trip, and the learning is hands-on, with activities planned from 9 a.m. to noon.

We did our excavation of Phoenix history at the library and are indebted to ASU history professor Bradford Luckingham for his eye-opening book Minorities in Phoenix, whence the quiz questions came. They are quotes from articles that appeared in the Arizona Gazette and the Arizona Republican (yes, with an "an"), in 1886 and 1890, respectively. Guess they didn't have many Chinese subscribers.

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Laura Pimentel
Contact: Laura Pimentel