1: Setting the Context
Before we begin actively exploring
the American Memory Library of Congress site on The
Chinese in California: 1850-1925, we’ll set the context for this unit
by reading a few outside sources that will provide examples of the representation
of the Chinese in the late nineteenth century U.S.
Which is why I remark,
And my language
That for ways that are dark
And for tricks
that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,
same I am free to maintain.
Go to the “Anti-Chinese
Movement and Exclusion” theme section in our Chinese in California:
1850-1925 web site and look at an original U.S. 1907 government document
called “Treaty Laws and Regulations Governing the Admission of Chinese”
(item 65) published by the Dept. Of Commerce and Labor that contains a
copy of the original immigration treaty between the U.S. and China (called
the “Treaty of Nov.17, 1880”) followed by (starting on page 6) the text
of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (called “Treaty Concerning the Immigration
of Chinese”) as well as an assortment of additional legislation up till
Read Bret Harte’s 1870 poem
“Plain Language from Truthful James, ” a.k.a. “The Heathen Chinee,”
and scan the images from three of its re-publications. Harte’s poem
(known mainly by the title “The Heathen Chinee”) has been called by scholar
Gary Scharnhorst “one of the most popular poems ever published” in America.
It was originally intended to be a satire of anti-Chinese prejudice but
became one of the chief texts adapted by a wide range of politicians, writers,
editors, and others in the campaign against Chinese immigration.
The poem was even cited on the floor of Congress during the Exclusion Act
debates. Scharnhorst says that “The Heathen Chinee” was "transformed
into a culture text that was appropriated for a variety of purposes, few
of them intended by the poet."
With the above as stimuli, begin
your web log ("blog") on the discussion board in the "Heathen Chinee" space.
An important part of today's "setting the context" is making a personal
connection with the issues this American Memory web site will raise.
Among topics for exploration might be such things as:
your previous knowledge about
the Chinese in America and the Exclusion Act
images of the Chinese other than
"The Heathen Chinee"
examples of popular culture stereotyping
of the Chinese that you are familiar with
your own experience with "real"
stereotypes of your cultural
your own experience of stereotyping
or being stereotyped
your general feeling about ethnic
your stance toward American immigration
policy (especially given the problems in California, and especially in
the post-9/11 world)
maybe even your feeling about
affirmative action and such in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions.
Read other blogs as time permits,
but reply thoughtfully to the blog of at least one other person (if at
all possible, reply to a person who hasn't received a reply).
"We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor"
Consider an addendum to your
blog as a result of reading others.