Enslaved Africans apart, creating trauma and confusion, eventually brought them back together as a tight-knit community when they were forced to learn the oppressor’s language. “Possessing a shared language, black folks could find again a way to make community, and a means to create the political solidarity necessary to resist” (hooks, 170). Enslaved black people took broken bits of English and created a counter-language and put their words together in such a way that the oppressor had to rethink the meaning of English language. “For in the incorrect usage of words, in the incorrect placement of works, was a spirit of rebellion that claimed language as a site of resistance. Using English in a way that ruptured standard usage and meaning,
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As a result, they were excluded, either by law or by bias, from many professions. Many turned to the laundry business; in San Francisco about 89% of the laundry workers were of Chinese descent (Mason and Stephenson, 1999). In 1880, the City of San Francisco passed an ordinance that persons could not operate a laundry mat in a wooden building without a permit from the Board of Supervisors. At the time, about 95% of the city's 320 laundries were in wooden buildings; approximately two-thirds of those laundries were owned by Chinese persons, the few laundries owned by whites were located in brick buildings (Mason and Stephenson, 1999).
Yick Wo, a Chinese immigrant, was convicted and imprisoned for violating the ordinance, which made it unlawful to maintain a laundry “without having first obtained the consent of the board of supervisors, except the same be located in a building constructed either of brick or stone” (Mason and Stephenson, 1999). In 1885, the board denied Yick Wo and two hundred other Chinese laundry owners their licenses, even though their establishments had previously passed city inspections.
After he was denied his license, Yick Wo continued to operate his business. He was eventually arrested and jailed for ten days for violating the ordinance. More than one hundred and fifty other Chinese laundry owners were also arrested for violating the