Razed and Erased: The Belated Memorializing of the Rock Springs Massacre

Authors: LuLing Osofsky*, University of California -Santa Cruz
Topics: China
Keywords: museum, memorial, violence, Chinese-American, auto-ethnography,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 1885, in Rock Springs, Wyoming, after a conflict between white and Chinese miners, white members of the community committed what is known as the Rock Springs Massacre— killing twenty-eight Chinese miners, wounding fifteen, expelling roughly six hundred, razing seventy-five homes, and stealing and burning property valued at over $150,000. 125 years later, in 2010, I went to Rock Springs, as a Chinese-American resident of Wyoming, in search of memorialization of this historical atrocity— an event infamous to Chinese-Americans— but otherwise mostly overlooked. This paper is born out of that quest, which at the time, proved futile. This paper explores the minimization of the Rock Springs Massacre, in local terrain and collective memory, and the erasure that minimization implies. It also considers the recent work on the part of the Rock Springs Historical Museum's Director to finally erect a memorial, despite years of emphatic inertia within the community. Through interviews and visual analysis, I consider what these recent memorializing and museal efforts mean for a community reckoning with an ambivalent sense of responsibility.

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