The Chinese Exclusion Act




Help us bring this important film and other stories about the Asian American community to all Americans and communities abroad by making a tax-deductible gift of $50 or more today to support our continued educational and community outreach efforts.



This couldn’t come at a more important time in our country… because it tells a story, it tells our story. It shows what was done to our people, but it is also relevant to our present moment, and what is going on today, with anti-immigration laws and prejudices and what’s going on with the Muslim ban. They all have their roots, legally and politically in Chinese exclusion.”- Historian Mae Ngai at THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT screening.

*The new DVD includes Chinese subtitles in simplified and traditional Chinese.


THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT premieres as a special presentation on PBS’ American Experience on Tuesday, May 29. Check local listings.

CAAM is one of the co-producers of and is leading the educational outreach for the new PBS documentary film THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT by award-winning documentary filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu of Steeplechase Films. This film sheds a light on the important connections between the Chinese Exclusion Act and the history of American civil liberties, immigration, and culture. By examining the socio-economic and geo-political forces that led to the Act, the film will uncover its unmistakable and wide-ranging consequences on national attitudes towards race, culture, politics, and society. At its core, this is a film about American identity, tracing the arc of what has defined being American from the time the United States was a fledgling republic through its astronomical rise as a world superpower.

THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT will have its broadcast premiere as a Special Presentation of the acclaimed PBS series American Experience. This film documents in fascinating detail the events leading to, causes of, consequences, and continuing impact of the only federal legislation in United States history ever to single out and name a specific race and nationality for exclusion from immigration and citizenship.

The film includes powerful and illuminating on-camera testimony from historians Erika Lee (University of Minnesota), Mary Ting Yi Lui (Yale University), Mae Ngai (Columbia University), Jean Pfaelzer (University of Delaware), Kevin Starr (USC-Dornsife), Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen (Founding Director, A/P/A Institute at NYU), Ling-Chi Wang (UC Berkeley), K. Scott Wong (Williams College), Renqiu Yu (SUNY-Purchase), along with Phillip Choy (architect, historian and archivist), Michael C. Lin (Chairman, 1882 Project), David Lei (cultural advocate), and Martin Gold (attorney and author).

Click here to learn more about the film

What made the Chinese survive the most difficult conditions in this country is mainly their identification with American founding principles, and also their faith in themselves, and they refused to be excluded.” -Renqui Yu (Professor of History, SUNY-Purchase)

The film guides viewers through the hardships and racial animosities that Chinese Americans faced throughout the duration of the law, including educational segregation, forced registration, and lynchings. THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT also reveals a forgotten history of Chinese American resilience and resistance to the 15 laws enacted by the federal government, as well as those passed at the state and local levels. By challenging the constitutionality of these laws and  the affronts to their civil rights through community organizing, civil disobedience, and the courts system, Chinese Americans brought 10,000 cases to federal courts and set a number of legal precedents that remain intact today. Through the lens of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a wider, deeply American story comes to life, one that embodies the issues of globalization, immigration, labor, and civil rights that continue to dominate headlines today.


From August – September 2016, we hosted a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $76,267 from over 415 people in support of educational and community outreach program for this film. Our crowdfunding campaign was the first step of our larger goal to raise $400,000 to complete the creation, development and execution of our national strategy to provide educational curriculum about the Chinese Exclusion Act and host educational screenings of the film to students and teachers across the nation from 2017-2018.

In total, we have raised over $145,000 since August 2016 to support our educational and community outreach efforts.

We appreciate everyone who shared this campaign and film with their friends, relatives and networks. Thanks to each of you, more people now know about this landmark, little known piece of federal legislation and why it is relevant to understanding the American experience – past, present, and future.

We are still actively fundraising to make the film and educational materials available to more communities across the nation. You can support this campaign by making a tax-deductible donation here.
Click here to see the list of campaign supporters (as of July 9, 2019)
Christina Accomando
Ginger Adams
Anna Alves
Stephanie Anderson
Anonymous (2)
Derek Attig
Cindy and Christopher Au
Bernadine Baines
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Dominique Barbeau
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Denise Bednar
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George Bradford
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Tracy Brown
Tina Bui
Wen Cao
Charlie Cardillo
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Chun-Fai Chan
David Chan
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In Honor of David Lei
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In Honor of Woo Shee Yee
Judy Yung
Wei Zhang and Peter Rasmussen
Hai-Fan Zhou
Taylor Zhou
Tenghui Zhu


“THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT” is a production of Steeplechase Films and The Center for Asian American Media, in association with The New-York Historical Society. The Chinese Exclusion Act has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Additional funding provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The Committee of 100. Major funding for American Experience is provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.
CAAM’s”Who is American?” Immigration, Exclusion, & the American Dream educational and community outreach program for “THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT” PBS documentary, is supported in part, with support from the Committee of 100 and with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo  

We regret any errors or omissions. Please contact 415.836.0814 x 102 or membership [at] caamedia [dot] org for any corrections.