South Texas College of Law Professor Josh Blackman explains the foundation of this case.
The Court's decision in this was seen as trailblazing -- it struck down legislation aimed at closing Chinese-operated laundries in San Francisco and guaranteed non-citizens the Constitution's protections. It was the first case to use the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court ruled laws with discriminatory intent were unconstitutional. This landmark case has been cited over 150 times since the Court's decision.
As a class, view the following videos and engage in class discussion to establish the basic facts of this case and establish how the 14th Amendment pertains to it.
Have students take notes using the following handout.
HANDOUT: Yick Wo v. Hopkins (Google Doc)
VIDEO CLIP 1: Yick Wo v. Hopkins: The Basic Facts (1:05)
Vocabulary: Arbitrary, 14th Amendment, Ratify, Violate, Appeal
VIDEO CLIP 2: Yick Wo v. Hopkins: The 14th Amendment (1:00)
Vocabulary: Abridge, Due Process, Immunities
Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips and respond to the accompanying questions to learn about the experience of the Chinese in the U.S.
VIDEO CLIP 3: Chinese Immigration in the U.S. in the 19th Century (6:22)
Vocabulary: Impetus, Assimilate, Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroad
Why did the Chinese come to the west coast of the U.S. during the 1850s?
Describe the types of jobs that the Chinese had during this time.
Explain the role of the Chinese in building the Transcontinental Railroad.
Describe what life was like for the Chinese in CA in the late 1800s.
VIDEO CLIP 4: The Burlingame Treaty (3:17)
Vocabulary: Plaintiff, Free Soiler, William Seward, Naturalize
VIDEO CLIP 5: Chinese Exclusion Laws (1:00)
View this collection of videos as a class to learn about the parities involved in the case, the significance of the case and the Supreme Court's decision.
VIDEO CLIP 6: Yick Wo v. Hopkins: Origin of the Case (3:00)
Vocabulary: Ordinance, Habeas Corpus
Explain the law that was enacted and how it impacted laundries during this time.
VIDEO CLIP 7: Yick Wo v. Hopkins: Significance (1:07)
Who was Hopkins?
VIDEO CLIP 8: Yick Wo v. Hopkins: The Decision (1:30)
Vocabulary: Equal Protection
According to Josh Blackman, what significant points were recognized in Justice Matthew's opinion?
As a class, review and discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.
Apply the Constitutional arguments in this case to a current immigration topic that is being discussed and debated in the U.S. Students may write a position paper on it or engage in a class debate.
Professors Mae Ngai and Josh Blackman explain the nature of the Geary Act, the impact on the Chinese in the late 1800s and its relevance today.
Professor Mae Ngai explains the parameters of the Magnuson Act and how it affected the Chinese.
Palma You, Gallery Coordinator at the Chinese Historical Society of America, describes what life was like for Chinese immigrants when they arrived on Angel Island in California.
In 2012 Congress issued a formal apology to Chinese Americans for their struggles in immigrating to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) sponsored the resolution and speaks about it on the floor of the House of Representatives.