By Shirley N Lew
The Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion exhibit at the New York Historical Society Museum will intrigue you. It shows how the Chinese in America played a role in trade relations with China, endured the challenges of immigration and racism, and how they banded together to flex their political muscle. The exhibit is described as “groundbreaking” and runs through April 19, 2015 .
The exhibit chronicles Chinese American history from the 18th century to the present day. You’ll soon realize how much you don’t know about Chinese American history. Did you know that it was Chinese tea, not Indian tea that was dumped in the Boston Harbor in 1773?
Who knew that you would find a Chinese American soldier in the Civil War named Joseph Pierce. Search for his photograph in the exhibit. After learning of this, it leads me to believe he may not have been the only Chinese American soldier in the war. What do you think?
This exhibit acknowledges the many contributions of Chinese Americans such as Chen Ning Yang and Tsung Dao Lee who received a Nobel Prize in 1957 on the study of particle physics. Wong Chin Foo was an activist and published the very first Chinese American newspaper in 1883. An original copy can be found in the exhibit among the many other artifacts that are on display. Of course there are many more present day Chinese American contributors, but I wanted to mention the ones that may have been forgotten over time.
The politics of racism and the anti-Chinese movement is very much a part of the exhibit and can not be ignored. The exhibit covers the extreme and seemingly desperate acts of the Chinese men and women to take on another family’s surname. To pass interrogation with immigration, these paper sons and daughters are coached to memorize the family’s lineage and history of their family. Sometimes the family’s story is fabricated. Many were successful in their scheme, but many were also deported when their story could not be verified.
“What is a Chinese American?” is a question that seems to be an omnipresent throughout the exhibit. I don’t recall seeing the words there, but the question is felt as you walk through it. And, perhaps you can answer that question by sharing your own family’s Chinese American history. You may contribute to the museum’s online exhibit or check out the ones that have already been posted by others by visiting here.
There is much to explore and I wish for all you to visit the exhibit, therefore I apologize for not giving away anymore here.
For additional information on the Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion exhibit, visit here.