HomeBad Ass AsiansChinese American History Pioneer Dead at 90

Chinese American History Pioneer Dead at 90

Philip Choy
Photo from Chinese Historical Society of America

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

Noted Chinese American historian Philip Choy is dead at the age of 90.

The SF Gate reports Choy died Wednesday in the hospital after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

I first became aware of Choy when I saw him on television in the 70’s talking about the contribution of Chinese in building the transcontinental railroad. If my memory hasn’t failed me, the show which was broadcast on KRON-TV, then the NBC affiliate in San Francisco, was produced by the Chinese Media Committee of Chinese for Affirmative Action.

The show was my introduction to Asian American history during the formative years of my Chinese American identity. At the time I was  attending a high school where I could count the number of Asians in my class on two hands.

Gaam Sann Haak – The Chinese of America aired in 1974. A short clip from the program lives on You Tube, courtesy of the Chinese Historical Society of America.

Together with the late Him Mark Lai, Choy taught the first Ethnic Studies course on Asian American history at San Francisco State University in 1969.

“He said that we had been denied the right to tell our story,” said Connie Young Yu, a historian who followed in Choy and Lai’s footsteps. “It is an American story.”

Choy was outraged during the centennial of the Transcontinental Railroad when the contributions of the Chinese workers who built the western half of the railroad were ignored.  He made his sense of injustice during the ceremony well known both during and after the festivities.

The native San Franciscan also authored several books including San Francisco Chinatown: A Guide to Its History & Architecture (2012), Canton Footprints: Sacramento’s Chinese Legacy (2007), and The Coming Man: 19th Century American Perceptions of the Chinese (1994). The architect is also the former president of the Chinese Historical Society of America.


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  1. RE: Chinese American history pioneer dead at 90: Thank you for writing about the late Philip Choy, one of the most important American history scholar who always held a strong transnational perspective on US-China history


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