Extended Interview: Chinese Immigration
Charlotte Brooks tells Gwen about life as a Chinese immigrant.
More from Elyse on Chinese immigration.
Today, Chinese Americans make up the largest Asian population in the U.S., totaling 2.5 million.
Chinese immigrants first flocked to the United States in the 1850s, eager to escape the economic chaos in China and to try their luck at the California gold rush.
When the Gold Rush ended, Chinese Americans were considered cheap labor.
They easily found employment as farmhands, gardeners, domestics, laundry workers, and most famously, railroad workers.
In the 1860s, it was the Chinese Americans who built the Transcontinental Railroad.
By the 1870s, there was widespread economic depression in America and jobs became scarce.
Hostility had been growing toward the Chinese American workers.
By 1882, things got so bad that Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, virtually banning all Chinese immigration into the United States.
It was only in 1943, when China became America's ally in World War II, that congress finally repealed the Exclusion Act.
Even then, Chinese immigration was still limited to a mere 105 people a year.
In 1965, all restrictions were lifted and the Chinese started to arrive in America in huge numbers.
The first Chinatowns started appearing in U.S. cities as far back as 1900.
Today, the largest Chinatown is in New York City, where almost 100,000 Chinese Americans live and work.