Just Beneath the Dirt: Where the Racism of Fresno Began


Who were these Armenians who began to trickle into Fresno in the early 1880s? Chester Rowell, the great Progressive editor of the Fresno Morning Republican, a champion of the newcomers, set about to educate his readers. They were an ancient people, the first nation to accept Christianity in 301 A.D., the first grape culture, one that had its own distinct branch on the tree of languages and alphabets.They had fled persecution and massacres in their homeland in Turkey, and many of the first wave of exiles had come to the San Joaquin Valley with educational degrees and money, enough dough to buy 25,000 acres of farmland by 1910. Those who arrived penniless went to work in the fields and fruit packing houses alongside the railroad tracks downtown, where they built their red-brick church and raised their families. Chinatown, the city’s first confined enclave for “undesirables,” sat west of the tracks. Next door was Volga German town inhabited by a tough breed of Germans who had fled persecution in Russia and despised the Armenians.To read the full story, check out the article in Fresno Bee.



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