|Lee Chew: A first person account of the Chinese
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.
included can be used to stimulate discussion and to check students’ comprehension.