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

Chinese Exclusion: The Process

Exclusion: Chinese Perspectives



References for Teachers and Students

In the past few years, there have a number of books and documentaries produced on the experience of Chinese in America. The following is only a small sample of materials available. Books and website cited below will provide information on other material that is available. For example, a longer list of book on the subject can be found on The Chinese in California section of the American Memory/Library of Congress website.

For Teachers

Chen, Jack. The Chinese of America; From the Beginnings to the Present. Harper & Row, 1981.

Dirlik, Arif. Chinese on the American Frontier. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2001. (Each of the chapters focuses on one of 11 western states and gives a fairly detailed history of the Chinese in that state. )

Kwong, Peter and Dusanka Miscevic, Chinese Americans: The Immigrant Experience. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 2000.

Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: History of Asian Americans. New York: Penguin Books, 1989.

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1993. (Chapter 8: “Searching for Gold Mountain: Strangers from a Pacific Shore”)

Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. The Chinese Experience in America, Indiana University Press, 1986.

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For Students

Some of these titles are out of print but are good resources if you can find them. Your school library may have copies and some are available as used copies from booksellers such as Amazon. And The Museum of Chinese in the Americas has a suggested reading for children through young adult.

Chu, Samuel, consultant. Chinese in the Building of the U.S. West. NJ: Globe Books, 1993.

Focuses on the experience of the Chinese in the 19th century. For middle and high school. A Teacher’s Resource Manual is also available.

Daley, William. The Chinese Americans. Part of The Immigrant Experience series, edited by Sandra Stotsky. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.

A good book of basic information for middle school students. This book puts the experience of Chinese immigrants into the context of the greater immigration experience that is such an important part of American history, explaining ways in which the Chinese experience was both different from and similar to the experiences of other groups. Many photographs from the 19th and early 20th century.

Hoobler, Dorothy, and Thomas Hoobler. The Chinese American Family Album. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

A fascinating book for adolescents and young adults, combining first hand accounts, photographs, and excerpts and quotes from people and newspapers of the day to give a multifaceted portrayal of Chinese Americans from the 1850s through the 1980s. The book makes connections between the past and present and brings the history to life by making the photographs and stories personal, always including the names of the people in the photos.

Knoll, Tricia. Becoming Americans: Asian Sojourners, Immigrants, and Refugees in the Western United States. Portland, Oregon: Coast to Coast Books, 1982.

An informative, interesting book for middle and high school students and adults. The book is divided into short chapters highlighting the experiences of different groups of Asian immigrants from the 1800s through the 1980s. The emphasis is on the circumstances under which different waves of Asian immigrants came to the United States and on the unique difficulties and challenges each group has faced in adjusting to American life.

Meltzer, Milton. The Chinese Americans. New York: Crowell, 1980.

Written for middle and high school students, this book traces the history of the Chinese in the United States, describing their contributions to the development of this country and their struggle for economic and social equality.

Ng, Franklin. Chinese American Struggle for Equality. Vero Beach, Florida: Rourke Corporation, Inc., 1992.

A basic book for middle school students who wish to learn about discrimination as it has been experienced by Asian immigrants and Asian Americans since the 1850s. The beginning chapter defines and discusses the term discrimination, and the book focuses on how Asians have been affected by discrimination and have taken action to gain their civil rights.

Steiner, Stan. Fusang, the Chinese Who Built America. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.

A good non-fiction book for students to learn more about the contributions of the earliest Chinese explorers and immigrants to North America.

Steffof, Rebecca and Ronald Takaki. Journey to Gold Mountain: the Chinese in Nineteenth Century America. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994.

Adapted from Strangers From a Different Shore into a shorter version for middle school and high school readers.

Spacious Dreams: The First Wave of Asian Immigration. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994.

Takaki gives an excellent, thoroughly researched history of the Chinese in the United States.

Wilson, John. Chinese Americans. Vero Beach, Fl: Rourke Corporation, 1991.

A slim volume for middle school readers that touches on aspects of the lives of Chinese Americans from their coming through the 1990s.

Yep, Laurence. This author has written a number of award-winning books on Chinese and Chinese Americans for young readers.

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Primary Source Materials – Print

Choy, Philip P., Lorraine Dong, and Marlon K. Hom. Coming Man: 19th Century American Perceptions of the Chinese. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.

Presents the perceptions and treatment of Chinese immigrants in 19th century America through a selection of illustrations and cartoons that appeared in American magazines and newspapers during the period. An excellent accompanying text offers a clear and brief explanation of the various themes as they appear.

Hom, Marlon K. Songs of Gold Mountain: Cantonese Rhymes From San Francisco Chinatown. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

A collection of 19th century Chinese folksongs, grouped around themes like “Immigration Blues” and “Lamentations of Estranged Wives.”

Wu, Cheng-Tsu, ed. “Chink!” A Documentary History of Anti-Chinese Prejudice in America. New York: World Publishing, 1972.

A wide-ranging collection of documents including laws, speeches of public officials, newspaper and magazine articles.

Yung, Judy. Unbound Voices: a Documentary History of Chinese Women in San Francisco. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

A collection of oral histories, newspaper articles, interview transcripts, and other primary sources focusing on the thoughts and experiences of Chinese women in San Francisco from the 1890s through the 1940s. Of special relevance to the lessons in this unit are the first and second sections which deal with the actual immigration experience and the life Chinese women left behind in China. The immigration section includes the coaching book used by the author’s parents upon her mother’s arrival in the United States and the transcripts of their interrogations by INS officials.

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Primary Source Material – Websites

Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives. Digital copy of Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

The Chinese in California, 1850-1925 (American Memory, Library of Congress)

By searching this site with words like Chinese, Chinese immigrant, and Chinese history, students can find all kinds of interesting primary sources. Especially interesting are oral histories recorded in the 1930s in which a cross section of Americans are interviewed about all sorts of topics.

California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849-1900 consists of the full texts and illustrations of 190 works documenting the formative era of California’s history through eyewitness accounts.

Library of Congress, Learning Page, Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900: Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1851-1900

Short overview of the topic and links to several documents from Mark Twain and a Chinese diplomatic document to President Grant.

Angel Island: Immigrant Journeys of Chinese Americans

Oral histories of several immigrants who landed on Angel Island.

Immigrant and Ethnic America at

The Chinese American Experience 1857-1892. Cartoons taken from Harper’s Weekly.

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Lesson Plans

National Center for History in the Schools

Early Chinese Immigration and the Process of Exclusion. (NH 164)

Co-published by the National Center for History in the Schools and the Organization of American Historians, 1998. This unit for high school students is based on a wide variety of primary sources. In most cases the entire primary source is included, rather than excerpts. There is a heavy emphasis on legislation and Chinese attempts to challenge discriminatory legislation, including the Exclusion Act, in the courts.

Asian Immigration to the United States (NH 176)

Co-sponsored by The Organization of American Historian, this teaching unit examines laws regulating Asian immigration, including the landmark 1965 act, global forces affecting immigration, and anecdotal accounts of motivations of immigrants.

Chinese Historical and Cultural Project

Golden Legacy Curriculum

300 pages of curriculum materials produced by the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project and San Jose Historical Museum. Designed for elementary students, some lessons are adaptable for middle school students. Includes activities relating to Chinatowns, immigration, Chinese contributions to railroad building, agriculture, and mining. Some lessons are available on the internet through ERIC, and the whole set can be ordered from CHCP through its website.

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This program that describes the evolution of San Francisco’s Chinatown from the 1850s to the present. The first half of the program draws on many of the same sources used in the first two lessons of this unit. The second half of the program brings the story through the war years and the civil rights era up to the present. Information on how to obtain a copy of the video plus teaching resources for the program are available online.

Becoming American: The Chinese Experience

This is a three part series from Bill Moyers and PBS. It comes with both a viewer’s guide and a guide for high school educators both of which ably supplement the programs. The programs are divided into 10-20 minute segments and the guide is keyed to these segments. The guides and other resources are available online.

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Miscellaneous websites

Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation offers a short history of the island.

Five Views: A history of Chinese Americans in California (National Park Service)

Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco


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