The Chinese Experience in 19th Century America

19th Century American Ideas About Other Peoples

Chinese Exclusion: The Process

Exclusion: Chinese Perspectives



Lee Chew: A first person account of the Chinese immigrant experience

Introducing the Lesson

The "Biography of a Chinaman" serves as a good counterpoint to the image of the Chinese that emerges from the readings and illustrations in the section on 19th Century Ideas. Lee Chew describes his life and work and responds to judgments and stereotypes he knows are commonly held by Americans about the Chinese community. Lee Chew is not a typical Chinese immigrant in that the majority of immigrants who came as poor manual laborers did not manage to rise to merchant status. However, his reasons for coming to and remaining in the United States, his experiences here, and his outrage regarding the treatment of the Chinese are typical. This article was published in 1903, a little more than a decade after Jacob Riis wrote his description of the Chinese in How the Other Half Lives (1890).

Students could read the Lee Chew biography as homework, as individual work in class, or in groups. They will need to go through the passage again to complete the map exercise. To determine the distance from Lee’s home in China (Canton) to San Francisco they will need to consult an atlas. The questions included can be used to stimulate discussion and to check students’ comprehension.

Chinese Laundry

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