Purple Moon Design

Creative Works by Seattle Artist Stewart Wong

1886 Chinese Expulsion (A work in progress)

Exclusion Expulsion Expunge

Artist Statement

A planned public art installation documenting the Knights of Labor and ad hoc groups 1886 riotous effort to expel the Chinese from Seattle. The work will be sited at Alaskan Way South and South Washington adjacent to Compass Center. I am the commissioned project artist responsible for developing the art and design of the installation.

Considering recent news reports concerning attacks on the AAPI community, I am evermore compelled to continue in social justice work through my creativity to help address our continuing struggles and conflict and to be one of many voices in support of the community.

Symbolism & Description

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Fueled by years of racism, nativism and anti-Chinese sentiment, a hideous anti-Chinese riot erupted in Seattle on February 7, 1886. On that day, an angry mob of 1,500 invaded the Chinese settlement in Pioneer Square, and forced some 350 horrified Chinese on wagons, and hauled them and their belongings in this vicinity to be sent away on a steamer to San Francisco. The vicious mob wanted to expel every Chinese from Seattle.

Prior to the Seattle riot, there were armed attacks on Chinese laborers at Newcastle, Issaquah, Black Diamond, and elsewhere in Washington followed by a horrendous riot in Tacoma, where a vicious mob brutally expelled over 600 Chinese, killing several Chinese. There were hundreds of merciless attacks to expel the Chinese that occurred throughout the West.

The demand to expel and exclude the Chinese was based on the racist belief that the Chinese were unfair labor competition, deceitful, filthy, inferior, and unassimilable. Along with the attacks against the Chinese, there were many oppressive laws restricting their ability to live, work, operate a business, and to testify in courts.

Ultimately, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted, which dramatically curtailed Chinese immigration to the U.S. and denied them naturalization for decades. It was the first time U.S. restricted immigration based on race and nationality.

For many decades the Chinese presence in Seattle was greatly suppressed and confined to a racially segregated, marginalized Chinatown community because of the 1886 anti-Chinese riot and Chinese Exclusion Acts.

The City of Seattle passed a resolution in 2015 expressing regret for the anti-Chinese sentiments that led to the anti-Chinese riots and the expulsion of Chinese, recognizing the contributions of Chinese to Seattle, and reaffirming the City’s commitment to the civil rights of all people.


Seattle Waterfront - Alaskan Way South and South Washington adjacent to Compass Center

Commissioning Agency

The Chinese American Legacy Artwork Project Governing Committee (CALAP)
Managed by: Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Design Development Supported by