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An Immigrant Neighborhood

Interethnic and Interracial Encounters in New York before 1930

Shirley Yee

Publication Year: 2011

Examining race and ethnic relations through an intersectional lens, Shirley Yee's An Immigrant Neighborhoodinvestigates the ways that race, class, and gender together shaped concepts of integration and assimilation as well as whiteness and citizenship in lower Manhattan during the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries.

In contrast to accounts of insulated neighborhoods and ethnic enclaves, Yee unearths the story of working class urban dwellers of various ethnic groups—Chinese, Jews, Italians, and Irish—routinely interacting in social and economic settings.

Yee's numerous, fascinating anecdotes—such as one about an Irishman who served as the only funeral director for Chinese for many years—recount the lived experiences of these neighborhoods, detailing friendships, business relationships, and sexual relationships that vividly counter the prevailing idea that different ethnic groups did not mix except in ways marked by violence and hostility.

Published by: Temple University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

It has always amazed me how so many people from so many different places can contribute to a research project. I have had the good fortune to have a number of excellent research assistants over the years: Zakiya Adair, José Díaz, Ileana Howard, Holly Johnson, Sarah Palmer, Karen Rosenberg, and Tania Zapata-García. I thank the wonderful ...

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pp. 1-27

In the winter of 1877, a group of mourners gathered in a dimly lit funeral parlor on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan to pay their last respects to Ah Fung (sometimes referred to as Ah Lung), a Chinese man who had been brutally murdered in his Lower East Side apartment. He had died of “ghastly wounds” at Bellevue Hospital after living for ...

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1. Forming Households, Families, and Communities

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pp. 29-53

Bert Val Eutemey and Louise Holmes were married in New York City in the 1920s. Holmes was an African American who had come from a long line of New Yorkers on her mother’s side. Her father was originally from Virginia, one of many African Americans who had migrated from the South to Northern cities after the Civil ...

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2. Building Commercial Relations

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pp. 54-76

On 10 February 1921, James M. Miller and William Chambers each sat before the Chinese immigration inspector’s office in New York City to testify on behalf of Lee Chong Ho to confirm that Lee was a “merchant” and not a “laborer.” A week earlier, Lee had arrived in Seattle, Washington, from China, claiming that he was a ...

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3. Sustaining Life and Caring for the Dead

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pp. 77-103

When William H. Kennedy expanded his livery and stable business into the undertaking trade in the 1860s, the Irish born undertaker, who later boasted of his longtime association with the Chinese in lower Manhattan, was not alone. Kennedy was part of a larger community of Irish men who had entered the funeral ...

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4. Mixing with the Sinners: The Anti-vice Movement

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pp. 104-137

Late on a July evening in 1901, William C. Steele Jr., Arthur E. Wilson, and Isaac Silverman scoured the Lower East Side looking for prostitutes. They were no ordinary men looking for a good time; they had recently signed up with the city’s newly formed private moral reform organization, the Committee of Fifteen. Their job was to ...

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5. On (Un)Common Ground: Religious Politics in Settlements and Missions

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pp. 138-171

In a letter to Harry Hopkins shortly before their marriage, Ethel Gross warned him not to be surprised if she decided to “break windows at Christodora House some day.”1 Although Gross’s playful threat most likely referred to their desire to break away from the settlement and move on with their life as a couple, her comment also illuminates ...

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pp. 173-177

This book offers a social history of southern Manhattan that challenges conventional notions of this area of New York as either a hotbed of interracial sex and violence or a cluster of isolated ethnic communities. Romanticized notions of New York history, rooted in ethnic and racial stereotypes, as well as in memories of family and ...


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pp. 179-214


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pp. 215-237


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pp. 239-243

E-ISBN-13: 9781592131297
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592131280

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 768100330
MUSE Marc Record: Download for An Immigrant Neighborhood

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
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