Asian Americans have been immigrating to the United States since the late 1500s. With each new wave, Asian immigrants experienced different forms of discrimination and prejudice that they strived to overcome. Below are a few important events in Asian American immigration history.
The first known Asians to come to America were Filipinos who arrived in California in 1587. Later, in 1763, Filipino sailors settled in a village named Saint Malo near New Orleans, Louisiana. The Filipinos arrived on ships that were part of the Manila Galleon, a Spanish trade between Manila in the Philippines and Acapulco in Mexico. During a stopover on the Louisiana coast, some Filipino crew members jumped ship settled in Louisiana. Some of the descendants of the original settlers are still living in Saint Malo Louisiana today.
A Century of Challenge and Change: The Filipino American Story
With Marissa and Jordan as their guides, students explore Philippine history and culture through this interactive Web site. Teachers can download teaching guides and lesson plans.
Chinese immigrants began arriving on the west coast of the United States in the 1850s. The immigrants traveled across the Pacific Ocean in search of work and the rumored Gum Sham, or Mountain of Gold.
In 1863, the United States began work on the Transcontinental Railroad. By 1865, the construction effort faced a labor shortage and the Central Pacific Railroad needed additional workers. Railroad officials were reluctant to hire the new Chinese immigrants and initially only hired 50 Chinese workers. Compared to the "American Workers," officials felt the Chinese had a much stronger work ethic. Central Pacific Railroad was impressed and eventually hired an additional 12,000. Despite their hard work, the Chinese still faced discrimination. They experienced more difficult conditions than the white workers while receiving less pay for their work. In 1867, the Chinese workers organized a strike demanding higher pay and safer working conditions. The officials ignored their demands and forced them the workers to return to work.
Workers of the Central Pacific Railroad
PBS has created a Web site for teaching about the Transcontinental Railroad. There is a section about the Chinese contributions to the railroad and their labor strike. The site also includes photos and a timeline.
Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, California is often called the "Ellis Island of the West." For immigrants, the three-week journey across the Pacific Ocean to Angel Island included stops in Honolulu, Hawaii; Manila, Philippines; Yokohama, Japan; and Shanghai and Hong Kong, China. Immigrants from these countries faced much discrimination when they arrived to America. California imposed a $2.50 monthly tax on Asian adult immigrant workers. Immigrants also experienced violence and riots, segregation in schools and housing and employment discrimination.
Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
This curriculum guide for teachers of grades 3-12 contains background materials, lessons, student worksheets, primary source documents, historical photographs and list of resources to introduce students to the experience of immigrants on Angel Island.
Poetic Waves - Angel Island
Many Chinese Americans were detained at Angel Island for up to two years. In frustration, detainees carved poetry into the walls of buildings on Angel Island. This multimedia site uses videos and images to introduce students to the Chinese American experience at Angel Island as described through their poetry. www.poeticwaves.net/
1882 - Chinese Exclusion Act
Banned immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States for 10 years and prohibited Chinese from becoming naturalized citizens. Later, the act included Japanese, Asian Indians, Filipino, and Koreans. The act was renewed in 1902 for another 10 years.
1907 - Gentlemen's Agreement
An informal agreement between Japan and the United States in which Japan agreed to stop issuing passports for Japanese citizens wishing to work in the continental United States, thereby stopping Japanese immigration to America. In exchange, the United States agreed to accept the presence of Japanese immigrants already residing in America, and to avoid legal discrimination against Japanese children in California schools.
1917 - Asiatic Barred Zone Act
Prohibited immigration from South or Southeast Asia, including India, and required a literacy test for immigration.
1924 - The Johnson-Reed Act
Restricted all Asians from coming into the United States.
1934 - Tydings-McDuffie Act
Promised independence to the Philippines in ten years and assigned an annual quota of 50 Filipino immigrants.
1965 - Immigration and Nationality Act
Abolished all national origins quotas and limited immigration to 20,000 people per country giving priority to those with family already living in the United States.