Claiming America

Claiming America

K. Scott Wong
Sucheng Chan
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 226
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  • Book Info
    Claiming America
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0770-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Sucheng Chan and K. Scott Wong

    • CHAPTER 1 Cultural Defenders and Brokers: Chinese Responses to the Anti-Chinese Movement
      (pp. 3-40)
      K. Scott Wong

      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 institutions and the physical intimidation and violence that they encountered regularly, the Chinese in America were confronted with an organized campaign to defame them in prose and in illustrations. Thus, the anti-Chinese movement was an early example of what is now often called a “culture war.” Much of this “war” was a battle of words, waged in print as well as through other forms of public...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Origins of the Chinese Americanization Movement: Wong Chin Foo and the Chinese Equal Rights League
      (pp. 41-63)
      Qingsong Zhang

      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 goal was to organize themselves into a political association to “obtain representation and recognition in American politics.”² This meeting, which produced perhaps the first Chinese voter association in the United States, was organized by Wong Chin Foo.

      Wong, who had...

    • CHAPTER 3 “Exercise Your Sacred Rights”: The Experience of New York’s Chinese Laundrymen in Practicing Democracy
      (pp. 64-92)
      Renqiu Yu

      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 viewed their position in American society and, as the victims of the various Chinese exclusion acts, how they perceived American democracy.

      Although the Chinese were welcomed as reliable and cheap labor when they first arrived in California in the early 1850s, the 1878In re Ah Yupdecision deprived them of the right to be naturalized.¹ Then,...


    • CHAPTER 4 Fighting for Their American Rights: A History of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance
      (pp. 95-126)
      Sue Fawn Chung

      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 4.1). In San Francisco, the proportion was even higher: the 4,767 American-born Chinese represented 34 percent of the Chinese-ancestry population in that city.¹ Fluent in English, these young men and women coming of age had greater potential for contact with the surrounding Euro-American community. Brought up in the United States, they also had a greater desire to...

    • CHAPTER 5 Race, Ethnic Culture, and Gender in the Construction of Identities among Second-Generation Chinese Americans, 1880s to 1930s
      (pp. 127-164)
      Sucheng Chan

      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 thousand persons of Chinese ancestry in the country. By 1920, approximately eighteen thousand (29 percent) of the sixty-two thousand persons of Chinese ancestry were listed in the census as American citizens.¹ Not all eighteen thousand had been born in the United States, however, because an unknown number of Chinese...

    • CHAPTER 6 “Go West . . . to China”: Chinese American Identity in the 1930s
      (pp. 165-190)
      Gloria H. Chun

      “We 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 theChinese Digest, which ran from 1935 to 1940.¹ This publication served as a crucial conduit through which young second-generation Chinese Americans could voice their thoughts and feelings. The articles mirrored these young people’s responses to and reflections on various issues and concerns, such as the Japanese invasion of China, the economic...

    • CHAPTER 7 The “Oriental Problem” in America, 1920–1960: Linking the Identities of Chinese American and Japanese American Intellectuals
      (pp. 191-214)
      Henry Yu

      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 of Sociology at Chicago had been the physical 10-cus for race relations research in America. From the 1920S to the end of the 1950S, it was a training ground for intellectuals and academics interested in what were called the “Negro problem” and the “Oriental problem” in America.


  6. About the Contributors
    (pp. 215-218)
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-220)