History Haiku Saturday – September 2 – Rock Springs Massacre, 1885

September2Haiku.jpg
Workers’ unequal pay:
Deep coal seams, deep racism
Bodies left unburied

I am someone who does well with assignments and “projects” – even if they are self-assigned! So in order to get out of the poetry lull I’ve been in for awhile, I assigned myself the task to write a history haiku a day. People spend lifetimes mastering the art of English haiku and I don’t pretend that these are true haiku in that sense. But I find the strictures of very short poetry to be helpful, so I went with it. Each day I look up the historical events for the day and pick one, trying to favor those I don’t know much (or anything) about.

Today’s haiku recalls the Rock Springs Massacre that took place in Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1885. A mob of white miners turned on their Chinese co-workers, killing 28 of them and injuring 15. The remaining Chinese miners were driven from the settlement. Tensions over unequal pay (Chinese miners were paid less), long simmering anti-Chinese sentiments, and an unsuccessful attempt by white miners to unionize had reached a boiling point. You can read more at Library of Congress’ Today in History (Wikipedia also has a lengthy article). Poem and ink design by me.

15 comments

  1. Thank you, Marcy, for such a succinct history lesson. So much has been white-washed from our past. Did you happen to read the NYTimes article about the renaming of places. For example, the renaming of Ahwhanee Lodge in Yosemite?

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    1. I did read that article! It was really interesting. (As an aside, I was deeply disappointed (but unsurprised) to learn about John Muir’s attitude toward Native Americans). I’ve experienced this “faux-Indian” motif or “theme” at a number of our national parks and I would not be at all sad to see that go and be replaced with a contextualized and specific history of the Native peoples that inhabited – and still inhabit, in many cases! – these places.

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      1. Somehow I manage to write every day during National Poetry Month, but I just can’t keep it up…but perhaps I ought to just keep giving myself assignments, too!

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    1. Thank you – I’ve been sticking with it so far. Although I don’t plan to subject folks to more than one of these per week, at most! Sadly, it would be easy to make every haiku about battles, massacres, or tragedies – an indictment of the nature of humanity. I’m trying to vary the topic from day to day so that it’s not such a depressing litany.

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    1. My pleasure! I had never heard of this massacre either – although I’d learned some about the 19th century anti-Chinese laws and acts in school, mostly as it related to the building of the railroads. But a lot of it was so sanitized and most of the violence is glossed over.

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