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Claiming America

K. Wong

Publication Year: 1998

This collection of essays centers on the formation of an ethnic identity among Chinese Americans during the period when immigration was halted. The first section emphasizes the attempts by immigrant Chinese to assert their intention of becoming Americans and to defend the few rights they had as resident aliens. Highlighting such individuals as Yung Wing, and ardent advocate of American social and political ideals, and Wong Chin Foo, one of the first activists for Chinese citizenship and voting rights, these essays speak eloquently about the early struggles in the Americanization movement.

The second section shows how children of the immigrants developed a sense of themselves as having a distinct identity as Chinese Americans. For this generation, many of the opportunities available to other immigrants' children were simply inaccessible. In some districts explicit policies kept Chinese children in segregated schools; in many workplaces discriminatory practices kept them from being hired or from advancing beyond the lowest positions. In the 1930s, in fact, some Chinese Americans felt  their only option was to emigrate to China, where they could find jobs better matched to their abilities. Many young Chinese women who were eager to take advantage of the educational and work options opening to women in the wider U.S. society first had to overcome their family's opposition and then racism. As the personal testimonies and historical biographies eloquently attest, these young people deeply felt the contradictions between Chinese and American ways; but they also saw themselves as having to balance the demands of the two cultures rather than as having to choose between them.

Published by: Temple University Press

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pp. vii-xi

More than thirty years have passed since Roger Daniels wrote, "Other immigrant groups were celebrated for what they had accomplished; Orientals were important for what was done to them."1 In the meantime, great strides have been made in recovering and reconstructing the Asian Americany ...

Part I: The Immigrant Generation

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1. Cultural Defenders and Brokers: Chinese Responses to the Anti-Chinese Movement

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pp. 3-40

THE ANTI-CHINESE MOVEMENT AGAINST WHICH IMMIGRANTS and American-born Chinese fought during the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries existed simultaneously on several levels. In addition to the numerous mechanisms used to bar Chinese from mainstream American ...

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2. The Origins of the Chinese Americanization Movement: Wong Chin Foo and the Chinese Equal Rights League

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pp. 41-63

ON JULY 30, 1884, TWO YEARS AFTER THE U.S. CONGRESS PASSED the first Chinese Exclusion Act, which not only prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to America, but also banned the naturalization of Chinese in the United States, 1 a group of Chinese who had been naturalized before the Act was passed gathered at 32 Pell Street, New York City. Their ...

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3. "Exercise Your Sacred Rights" : The Experience of New York's Chinese Laundrymen in Practiciing Democracy

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pp. 64-91

BASED ON AN EXAMINATION OF THE ACTIVITIES OF THE CHINESE Hand Laundry Alliance (CHLA/ of New York, this chapter discusses a group of immigrant Chinese laundrymen's understanding and practice of democracy in the 1930S and 1940s. It attempts to elucidate how these laundrymen...

Part II: The American-Born Generations

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4. Fighting for Their American Rights: A History of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance

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pp. 95-126

By THE 18905 MANY AMERICAN-BORN CHINESE EDUCATED IN the American public school system had become adults. Their numbers had risen from a mere one percent of the total Chinese-ancestry population in the United States in 1870 to eleven percent in 1900 (see Table 4.11. In San Francisco, the proportion was even higher: the 4,767 American- born ...

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5. Race, Ethnic Culture, and Gender in the Construction of Identities among Second-Generation Chinese Americans, 1880s to 1930s

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pp. 127-164

IN 1870, TWO DECADES AFTER CHINESE IMMIGRATION BEGAN, census takers counted only about five hundred American-born children (less than 1 percent) among the sixty-three thousand persons of Chinese ancestry living in the United States. Three decades later, the American born numbered some nine thousand (approximately 10 percent) among the almost ninety ...

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6. "Go West...to China" : Chinese American Identity in the 1930s

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pp. 165-190

IIWE WERE 'GHETTOIZED' WITHIN JUST THESE FEW SQUARE blocks," stated Thomas Chinn, who grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1930S. To enable members of the second generation like himself to "break out of the shell of Chinatown," he helped to found the San Francisco-based, English-language newspaper/magazine the Chinese Digest, which ran from ...

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7. The "Oriental Problem" in America, 1920-1960: Linking the Identities of Chinese American and Japanese American Intellectuals

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pp. 191-214

DURING SEVERAL DECADES OF THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY, the consciousness of American intellectuals of Chinese descent was profoundly shaped by the theories and writings of a handful of social scientists from the University of Chicago. Ever since Charles Spurgeon Johnson made his pathbreaking report after the Chicago race riots in 1919, the Department...

About the Contributors

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pp. 215-217

E-ISBN-13: 9781439907702
Print-ISBN-13: 9781566395762

Publication Year: 1998