A Tent Chinatown  

Refugee campSan Francisco was in flames after the massive 1906 earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the conflagration--seeking shelter from the disaster. But the homeless residents of Chinatown could find no place to go.

Exclusionary laws designed to enforce the segregation of Asian Americans meant that they could not live outside strictly defined boundaries in the central cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. Searching for safety, they were forced to take the long overland route around the bay when ferry operators--making emergency escape runs from San Francisco--denied passage to members of the Asian race.

But here in Oakland, thousands of China-town's homeless were given refuge in a makeshift tent city at "The Willows," near what is now the Lake Merritt Boat House. For more than a year after the 1906 disaster, the waterfront of Oakland housed the largest concentration of Chinese-speaking people outside of Asia.

Steven Lavoie
Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room

Oakland Museum of California Logo  "Walk Along the Water"
  Oakland Museum of California, used with permission.

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