HomeAsian AmericansPBS Documentary Exploring Chinese Exclusion Act Makes TV Debut Tonight

PBS Documentary Exploring Chinese Exclusion Act Makes TV Debut Tonight

Chinese Exclusion Act
The highly anticipated documentary, The Chinese Exclusion Act, debuts tonight nationwide on PBS on The American Experience (8 p.m./7 C)

From 1882-1943, it was illegal for most Chinese citizens to enter the United States. As horrific as this chapter in American history was, it is hardly mentioned in U.S. textbooks, or familiar with Americans in general.  Ric Burns, brother of acclaimed filmmaker, Ken Burns, aims to change this with his new documentary on the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Burns expressed how vital this story is to the Huffington Post if one wants to truly understand the history of U.S. Immigration. “If you want to know about immigration in America and you don’t know the story of Chinese exclusion, it would be like saying you want to know about race relations in America, but you’ve never heard of slavery.”

Co-Director of the documentary and Chinese American, Li-Shun Yu, attested to Burns’ statement, “The majority of people don’t know about [the Chinese Exclusion Act]…Even Chinese Americans themselves don’t know. I, myself, did not know.”

Indeed, the film could not come at a more ideal time, with today’s political climate. The directors exclaim however, the timing is purely coincidental, as the film has been six years in the making. Instead, the film is meant to serve educational purposes and as a result, educators are encouraged to hold film-screenings in their classrooms.


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  1. RE: PBS Documentary Exploring Chinese Exclusion Act Makes TV Debut Tonight: Important to add in reality Chinese exclusion lasted until 1968.
    After 1943 only 105 Chinese were allowed in as a token to China as an ally against Japan during World War II. Real change occurred after the civil rights movement and passage of the Hart Celler immigration bill in 1965 which took effect in 1968. That allowed 20,000 Chinese in per year. Also applied to other Asians and Africans blocked after 1924 when USA specifically blocked persons of color.


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