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.
ABOUT THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT DOCUMENTARY
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).
“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.
CAAM’S CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
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.
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.
Jocelyn S. Carter
Ronald K. Chan and Jane G. Chan
Peter W. Chen
Jessie Cheng Charitable Foundation
Norman and Candice Eng
May and George Koo
Jeff and Melvina Lee
Kitty L. Lew
Nancy Lim Yee and Edmund Yee
Natalie Hom Oyung
Judy S. Sit
Penelope and Rossi Snipper
Calvin and Fay Taam
Kan and Anna Toy
Cecilia Tso Warner
Brenda Hee Wong
Donald and Margaret Wong