The bubonic plague claimed its first victim in Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King in 1900 and then established itself over the next several years, threatening the entire country. When Dr Rupert Blue was tasked with stopping the spread of the plague, he was pitted against the corrupt politics and racism of the city government, in a deadly race against time.
In Black Death at the Golden Gate, David K. Randall gives a vivid, fast-paced and at times revolting history of the plague in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century ... Mr. Randall, a senior reporter at Reuters, has built his story on the work of earlier writers... Mr. Randall acknowledges these sources and adroitly synthesizes them, along with Blue’s letters and contemporaneous accounts from newspapers. But frustratingly the author eschews detailed endnotes for a lightly sourced list of texts that informed each chapter. It stretches credulity, for instance, that Mr. Randall could know what Wong Chut King might have dreamed in the days before he died ... With the latest upsurge in measles cases making the headlines, Mr. Randall’s book is a timely reminder that public health challenges responsible for killing tens of millions of people world-wide are not confined to the past.
Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague provides a fascinating, in-depth look at a little-known episode in American history ... The degree to which racism and poor relations with the Chinese community compromised the response to the plague is a major theme of the book, with Randall tracing the build-up of anti-Chinese sentiment deep into the city's past ... While Black Death at the Golden Gate recounts a crisis from our nation's past, it carries clear implications for our future. When the next outbreak occurs, we will need to defeat our own worst instincts as well as the disease.
In this fast-paced history, journalist Randall...explains how the plague became a hazard in the continental U.S ... this story of an epidemic that wasn’t is a gripping historical mystery and a key cautionary tale for our own time.