Module 5. Our Story: Asian Americans


Many Americans have little to no knowledge about the role of Asian Americans in this nation’s history. Their stories are usually left out of history books with brief mention of internment camps, WWII, and Vietnam. This oversight has occurred for two reasons. First, Asia is a vast continent that has supplied the most diverse population of American immigrants over the course of our history. To cover the history of all these immigrants would prove quite difficult in most high school or college courses.  Secondly, most history books used in public schools and colleges offer little coverage of the role of Asian Americans in U.S. history. For many years, it was believed that Asian Americans had little impact in America. This is false.

From China to India to the Philippines, Asians have been migrating to the U.S. in ebbs and flows since about the 19th century. Like many other immigrant groups, specifically non-Whites, Asians were largely unaccepted and at times even met with aggression by American society. Like many non-White immigrants, Asians were used for difficult, sometime dangerous labor, but cast aside as inferior and unable to enter the fold of American society. Asian immigrants faced numerous legal obstacles from entry to the country, to access to citizenship, to general social acceptance.

When studying Asian American history, it is useful to break up the history into multiple blocks of time. Like many other diverse ethnic groups, there is not one solitary wave of immigration that occurred with Asians.

We will be focusing our study of Asian Americans in three waves: the arrival of large numbers of East Asians during the American Gold Rush, aspects of mid-20th century global conflicts, and the wave of immigration that shifted the American demographic during the mid-1960s. During each of these times, the Asians were met with much adversity, but many still managed to prosper in America despite it.

This is their story.


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Our Lives: An Ethnic Studies Primer Copyright © 2022 by Vera Guerrero Kennedy and Rowena Bermio is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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