The Chinese Experience in 19th Century America
19th Century American Ideas About Other Peoples

Chinese Exclusion: The Process

Exclusion: Chinese Perspectives



Unit Overview

Lessons in This Unit


Connections to the Curriculum

This unit focuses on the Chinese immigrant experience in late 19th Century America. Their coming raised issues of social and cultural diversity, discrimination, and national identity -- issues that are still be debated today.

The activities in this unit could be used in a U.S. history curriculum in lessons on immigration, industrialization, and urban life in the late 19th century as well as a unit focused on Chinese immigration. and deal with issues of social and cultural diversity and national identity.

Main Ideas of the Unit

  • Immigration policy is a reflection of how Americans define their national identity and culture.

  • The Exclusion Act and other discriminatory laws were motivated by a fear of Chinese culture and racist attitudes held by the native-born population and other European immigrant groups.

  • Some of the same ideas and sentiments that underlay the Exclusion Act were responsible for the discrimination experienced by other groups.

  • The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the culmination of a sustained local and national effort to segregate and exclude the Chinese from the mainstream of American life.

  • The Exclusion Act represented the first effort of the United States government to regulate or limit the immigration of free persons and set a precedent for basing immigration policy solely on race and ethnic background, a practice which continued until 1965.

  • Chinese immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries carried out a sustained challenge to anti-Chinese discrimination. Despite the damage and suffering caused by oppressive anti-Chinese laws and policies, Chinese immigrants managed to make lives for themselves, establish families and communities, and contribute to the development of the United States.

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