American Experience

Plague At The Golden Gate

Season 34, Episode 4 of 3

Over 100 years before the COVID-19 pandemic set off a nationwide wave of fear and anti-Asian sentiment, an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco's Chinatown unleashed a similar crisis. The death of a Chinese immigrant in 1900 would have likely gone unnoticed if a medical officer hadn't discovered a swollen black lymph node on his groin - evidence of bubonic plague. Fearing the city would become the American epicenter of the disease, health officials drew on racist pseudoscience to cover up the threat and protect San Francisco's burgeoning economy. As the outbreak continued to spread, public health officer Rupert Blue became determined to save his city. He established ties to Chinatown and ultimately proved that throngs of flea-infested rats-rather than the "foreign" habits of the Chinese-were the real reason the disease persisted. Based on David K. Randall's "Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague" and directed by Li-Shin Yu.

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