A People’s History of Asian America

In direct response to the increased violence and hateful rhetoric against Asian Americans, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) in partnership with PBS Digital Studios presents A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA. The four part miniseries premieres Thursday, May 6, 2021 on the PBS Voices, a documentary-focused YouTube channel by PBS Digital Studios, PBS.org and the PBS Video app

Journalist Dolly Li and Professor Adrian De Leon guide audiences in explainer-style videos with informed and and empowering perspectives, helping to break down common microaggressions and reveal the stereotypes, racism and xenophobia behind these statements. Episodes examine the rise in anti-Asian sentiment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the “model minority” myth and the hyper-sexualization of Asian women, among other topics.

“As our organization’s documentary hub on YouTube, PBS Voices extends PBS’s efforts to foster dialogue and deepen awareness around the many ways in which diversity makes our great nation stronger,” said Brandon Arolfo, Head of PBS Digital Studios. “While A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA reveals some difficult truths, we are proud to stand in solidarity with the Asian American community and present informed perspectives that we believe will empower our audiences to create a future free of hate, intolerance and racism.” 

“Asian Americans have been an integral part of this country, but the roots of anti-Asian sentiment and damaging stereotypes about the community go back almost as far,” says CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong. “CAAM is excited to support Dolly Li and Adrian De Leon’s A People’s History of Asian America to help excavate the origins of the many microaggressions against Asian Americans and to tell the stories of our diverse community that are fundamental to our national experience.”

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA on PBS Voices begins Thursday, May 6, 2021 with episodes released on a weekly basis throughout the month of May.

Adrian De Leon and Dolly Li


A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA “Why ‘The China Virus’ Has Always Been A Part of U.S. History”
Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Premieres: Thursday, May 6, 2021
Producer:  Plum Studios / CAAM / PBS Digital Studios 
Description: Unpack historic use of disease in racial politics and a look at the modern case of COVID-19. The history behind San Francisco and Los Angeles Chinatowns and its Chinese exclusion and medical examinations.

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA “Where Did the ‘Asian Fetish’ Come From?”
Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Premieres: Thursday, May 13, 2021
Producer: Plum Studios / CAAM / PBS Digital Studios  
Description: Unpack the hyper sexualization of Asian women ingrained in U.S. imperialism, comfort women, and global misogyny reserved specifically for Asian women. 

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA “Are You ‘AAPI’ or ‘Asian American’? It’s Complicated.”
Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Premieres: Thursday, May 20, 2021
Producer: Plum Studios / CAAM / PBS Digital Studios  
Description: How many A’s in AAPI? Dolly & Adrian hear from South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander voices to explore the pros and cons of disaggregating Asian American as a statistical category.

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICA “Towards an Afro-Asian Solidarity (w.t.)”
Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Premieres: Thursday, May 27, 2021
Producer: Plum Studios / CAAM / PBS Digital Studios 
Description: Unpack the historic tensions between these two groups and explore if solidarity is possible.  

About the Hosts

Dolly Li 

Dolly LIDolly Li an award-winning independent video journalist, filmmaker, and correspondent. Former host of the award-winning AJ+ (Al Jazeera) show, Untold America, Dolly is known for her viral documentary series about unusual communities such as the Mississippi Delta Chinese. She explores themes of land, globalization, and identity through the lens of food and the perspective of a Cantonese American native New Yorker. Dolly has experience reporting domestically throughout the U.S. and internationally from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China. She navigates stories in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish.

Previously, Dolly was a co-lecturer at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, advising second-year multimedia students through the completion of their Master’s thesis projects. She also served as Vice President of the AAJA San Francisco Chapter, providing professional development and mentoring to students and minority journalists. She is currently the co-director of AAJA’s Video Group. Dolly studied visual arts and economics at Rice University. She’s currently based in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY.

Adrian De Leon 

Adrian De LeonAdrian De Leon a historian, poet, and essayist at the University of Southern California. He is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, with affiliations at the Center for Transpacific Studies, the East Asian Studies Center, and the Equity Research Institute. He holds a B.A. (Honors, with distinction) in English from the University of Toronto Scarborough (2014), and a Ph.D. in History at the University of Toronto (2019), where he was a Junior Fellow at Massey College, a SSHRC Bombardier Doctoral Scholar, and a Fulbright Canada Scholar. In 2020, his dissertation was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal.

He is the author of two poetry collections and his writing has appeared in The Conversation, The Puritan, Canadian Literature, Joyland Magazine, Radical History Review, Amerasia, and other creative and scholarly venues.

For more information on PBS Digital Studios and PBS Voices, visit PBS.org and the PBS YouTube Channel. Viewers are also encouraged to engage in online conversation by tagging @PBS and using #PBSVoices on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Throughout the month of May, PBS is illuminating stories featuring the Asian American experience on air, PBS.org and the PBS Video app. For the press release on PBS’s ongoing educational programming honoring the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, please visit PBS.org. commitment to programs that deepen awareness, foster dialogue and illuminate the many ways in which diversity makes our country stronger. 


About CAAM
The Center for Asian American Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. We do this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. For 40 years, CAAM has exposed audiences to new voices and communities, advancing our collective understanding of the American experience through programs specifically designed to engage the Asian American community and the public at large.

About PBS Voices
PBS Voices is a documentary-themed YouTube channel by PBS Digital Studios, which brings together curated content from PBS member stations and independent filmmakers across the country to fulfill viewers’ curious minds. Each program featured on PBS Voices features an array of fascinating, relatable miniseries celebrating shared human experiences.

About PBS Digital Studios
PBS Digital Studios produces original, digital programming for YouTube and Facebook Watch, designed to engage, enlighten, and entertain online audiences. The PBS Digital Studios network has more than 27 million subscribers, generating an average of 50 million views a  month and has acquired more than three billion lifetime views. Currently, the Studio has 20 original series streaming online, including eight series from PBS member stations. Series include the Webby Award-winning IT’S OKAY TO BE SMART and CRASH COURSE, as well as popular series such as TWO CENTS, EONS and PBS SPACE TIME.


About PBS
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature, and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.