While there is a general consensus amongst historians about the narrative of Chinese immigration to the United States, as one studies the Chinese immigrant population in Alexandria, it is apparent that there are regional variations within this group. The Chinese that were in Alexandria in the nineteenth century were not a large population; however, they were still central to the city. While small in number they were still central to life in Alexandria, as the Chinese were able to find a niche in the economy by opening laundries; yet, they still faced nativist attitudes of the time.
We found that the following were central to the Chinese immigrant population in Alexandria and will be discussed thoroughly in this study:
The Chinese in Alexandria were primarily the owners of laundries. Between 1900 and 1940 there were a total of 57 Chinese laundry owners in Alexandria. The existence of these laundries provided a niche for the Chinese, creating a community amongst them.
The Chinese in Alexandria were subject to nativist attitudes as were the Chinese across the rest of the country. Ultimately, the Chinese faced nativism in that their laundries were often attacked and they were subject to investigation from the federal government questioning them about their citizenship.
Race relations were unique to the Chinese in Alexandria as they were able to interact with other races relatively freely due to the fact that the small community was non-threatening.
Ultimately, this study shows that the Chinese immigrant population in Alexandria needs further studies. Furthermore, it proves that the historiography on Chinese immigration needs to be elaborated on in order to account for the regional differences within this population.
Authors: Briana Bohrer, Erin House and Brandon Altamirano