This year’s Olympics in Japan is ‘different’ than all of the previous ones--I don’t just mean that it’s happening during the COVID pandemic, it’s also the one that has the largest number of athletes who are openly a part of the LGBTQ+ community. This year, there are currently 168 athletes who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, maybe even more as there are some athletes who aren’t open about their sexuality. What’s even more impressive is that if all of the LGBTQ+ athletes were representing a country, they would be ranked 14th in the world in the number of medals won .
Here are some of the athletes making headlines:
Tom Daley : After having won a bronze medal in diving when he was just 18 in the 2012 Olympics, he won a gold medal this week in the men's synchronized diving competition along with his diving partner, Matty Lee.
Megan Rapinoe : Megan’s skills as a soccer player, her unflinching support for LGBTQ+ rights and amazing hair color has placed her on the map as one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ athletes in the Olympics and in the soccer world. She has already won a gold medal back in 2012 and a world cup winner as well.
Chelsea Wolfe : Chelsea was the first trans athlete to qualify for the Olympics from the USA team. She will be serving as an alternate in the BMX freestyle event.
The reason why this year’s Olympics is particularly special for trans people is that this is the first time there are trans athletes competing. Trans athletes were able to participate in the Olympics back in 2004, but it wasn’t until this year that trans athletes actually participated .
This is amazing news; while the number may seem small, it was by far much much larger than it was before and it's important that athletes from all over the world, are able to express who they are and what they do wholeheartedly without fear of judgement or retribution. I hope that this will be a gateway in helping other LGBTQ+ athletes come out and be open about who they are in the future.
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What pulled you into teaching history, and eventually, becoming a history textbook author?
I grew up with maternal grandparents who spoke German as a first language; my grandmother was born in the US but into a large German-speaking farming family and my grandfather emigrated from Ukraine (at the time we called it the USSR or Russia). This made me curious about European history and languages so I first studied German, then French, and finally ended up in French history because of my interest in the French Revolution. I loved studying history and also teaching it, both in large undergraduate classes and small seminars. It seemed to me then and still seems to me now that studying history gives you a new perspective on yourself, your family, your community and your nation and a sense of belonging to a wider world. Textbooks are essential because they provide an introduction to all the fascinating questions that could be studied in greater depth and they also, when they work well, give a sense of how things fit together, whether it’s different kinds of experience (war, economic change, cultural variations) or developments over time (how much we have inherited from the past).
Can you tell us a little bit about the courses you teach/have taught and where you've taught?
I began my career at the University of California, Berkeley teaching Western Civ, general European history and French history in particular. I have taught very large lecture classes (many hundreds of students) and small seminars, both undergraduate and graduate, and everything in between. Berkeley was somewhat unusual (aside from the fact that it was Berkeley, the home of radicalism) in that the history department required every major to write a thesis, not just the honors students. This got students involved in original research and writing and was often very rewarding both to students and their professors. After Berkeley I went to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, but I still taught the same variety of courses. Then I went to UCLA where I continued to teach a variety of courses. I still teach an online summer version of Western Civ. I loved all the places where I taught and found the students always very engaged (not every single one, of course!), though I also learned that students respond to their professors – if they sense enthusiasm and passion for the subject, they tend to feel the same way themselves.
With The Making of the West going into best-selling 7th edition, and a new Achieve platform, what are you most excited about showing your fellow history professors this fall?
The online component of teaching is only going to grow, and the most important thing is that that component reflect the same research and analysis that go into textbook writing and the research and writing of history more generally. What I like about the Macmillan platform for the 7 th edition is that it had great input from my co-authors and myself. It reflects our interests and priorities, not some generic template. At the same time, Achieve offers so many choices. No one has to do the same thing as everyone else; the customization possibilities are endless, as I discovered for myself teaching this course with Launchpad over the last few years.
What are the biggest themes that you try to convey? What are the organizing principles of The Making of the West?
Interconnection above all else: we have tried to bring all the different kinds of history (from military to women’s and gender history) together into a seamless (in so far as that is possible) narrative without privileging any one aspect or region. Interconnection in the sense, too, that Europe is part of a wider world and we would like to think that we were very much in the forefront of emphasizing that aspect of Western Civ.
What has been the best "teachable moment" to emerge from teaching in the era of the pandemic?
I am not sure that enough has been made of how the online format can actually increase professor-student interactions. If you teach a bricks and mortar version of Western Civ as I have, it is very hard to get to know individual students if you have a class of 150-500 students (except those in your own section if you have one). And it’s very hard to get students to come to office hours because they have busy schedules and are often convinced that no one will be very interested in their problems when there are so many other students. With the move online during the pandemic, students have been more willing to email their professors because it’s the only way to contact them. Yes, in synchronous classes, you can stay and ask a question after the lecture but in asynchronous ones, you cannot. But you can email the professor or attend his or her zoom office hours. Without this, I’m afraid that the pandemic would have been even more disastrous for learning.
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The Tokyo games will begin this Friday, July 23, and there has been recent news around Rule 50 of the Olympic games which bans “demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda in Olympic venues.” The Olympics, though, have a long history of protests, and I think it’s helpful to view current events in the context of this history.
Here are three stories of protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. If you watch or follow the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and the associated protest that might occur, you can think of them within this larger context of historical protest at these world games.
Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos ’ protest is probably the most famous of these games. The two men won the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter race. When receiving their medals, Smith and Carlos wore black socks without shoes to symbolize African-American poverty and a black glove to symbolize African-American strength and unity, and they each raised a fist with lowered heads during the national anthem.
Smith and Carlos were then suspended from the US team and forced to leave the Olympic Village, but they were not forced to return their medals.
Wyomia Tyus is mostly known as a former world-record holder in the 100 meter race, and the first person to win gold in this event twice. During her 1968 gold-medal performance, she also protested against racism and human rights abuses through her clothing.
She did so by wearing dark blue running shorts , in contrast to the white ones the other Americans in this event wore. She also criticized the actions taken against Smith and Carlos for their own protest. Her shorts are now in the National Museum of African American History and Culture , and she recently published a memoir detailing these games.
In gymnastics, Věra Čáslavská also protested at these historic games. When receiving her four gold and two silver medals, she turned her head from the Soviet flag. Two months earlier, the Soviet Union had invaded Čáslavská’s home of Czechoslovakia. She then fled to the forest and trained by swinging from trees and doing floor routines in a meadow.
After the games, Čáslavská was barred from the sport in Czechoslovakia, so she decided to coach in Mexico.
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In May I described my plans for a deconstructed research project to be assigned during my six-week summer intensive course in place of a traditional writing assignment. (See “Summer Project: Assignment Reboot” for details.) My goal was to have the students complete the key elements of a research project in structured sections, due over four weeks, rather than handing in a finished product at the conclusion of the course. Having just finished reading spring-semester research projects, I hoped that with this new approach the summer projects would be academically stronger if they were broken up into sections even though the summer students would have less time to complete the project than the spring semester students. Thanks to everyone who wrote to me after the blog was published to share their experiences with deconstructed projects! So what did I find? Here are some observations from my first experience assigning this project with a class of 24 online students. First, seasoned students who had completed research projects in other courses were initially confused about “the point.” I had a handful ask if they could “just write the whole paper” instead of breaking down the projects into my four step process. Although some students clearly already knew how to complete a research project, I explained that all students could benefit from slowing down the process. Part One of the project asked students to explain their topic and identify three secondary sources in MLA citation form. Right away some students hit a roadblock because they did not know where/how to locate secondary sources and/or they were unfamiliar with MLA. Since they had only seven days to complete the assignment, however, there was no time to procrastinate. Anyone who needed assistance with the sources had to immediately schedule time with our reference librarian, and the majority of students did just that. Having students focus Part Three of the assignment on primary sources provided an opportunity to once again offer help. Part Two asked students to summarize the basics: who/what/where/when/how. Part Three required them to find primary sources to illustrate the details. In semester-long research projects I have consistently seen students ignore the differences between primary and secondary sources as they rush to complete a project in the crunch of a deadline. In the deconstructed project the students had seven days to identify three primary sources. For most students, successful completion of this part of the project meant brushing up on what a primary source is -- I provided links to several online resources as well as a sample of my own work for students to mirror. Again, I reminded students of the short window of time and encouraged them to ask for help. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many students booking virtual appointments with our college librarians and the college Writing Center. Finally, Part Four required students to submit two paragraphs on the historical significance of their topic along with a final Works Cited page in MLA format. I provided several prompts to help the students to think more broadly about their topics and to draw connections to contemporary issues when possible. Once more the students had seven days to complete this part of the project. No time to procrastinate. Ultimately, my trial run with a (time-sensitive) deconstructed research project was a success. The vast majority of students completed all four parts of the assignment on time and I was pleased with the effort put forth. It’s difficult to judge whether the results will be the same during a semester-long course because in my experience students who take summer-intensive courses are extra motivated by the need to earn those last few credits that will allow them to graduate and/or transfer. I’ll try the project in a semester-long format this fall and am considering whether or not to maintain the same four-week plan. I’m curious to see if the four-week approach reduces the amount of procrastination that tends to seep into semester-long research projects. Thoughts? Suggestions?
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Yesterday was the last day of June and also the last day of Pride. We are all fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate this very special month. For many people, this is a dream come true; fighting for LGBTQ rights and acceptance has been a long, uphill battle. As a matter of fact, Obergefell v. Hodges , the Supreme Court case that decided whether same-sex marriage has legal standing and recognition in all 50 states, happened only in 2015, 6 years ago.
While LGBTQ+ people in the United States are able to enjoy this month, it’s unfortunate that some countries and states continue to treat LGBTQ people with contempt: Hungary passed a law that "ban the representation of any sexual orientation besides heterosexual as well as gender change information in school sex education programs, or in films and advertisements aimed at anyone under 18.” Six states currently prohibit schools from teaching students about homosexuality .
According to the Human Rights Campaign , an LGBTQ advocacy non-profit, only 29 countries have legalized same-sex marriage. In contrast to that, 69 countries criminalizes homosexuality .
While the disparity between those that are for and against LGBTQ+ rights are huge, there has been progress. Recently, Taiwan had legalized same-sex marriage back in 2019 . And other countries are showing signs of being more open. HRC listed these countries to watch out for in 2021 for marriage equality: Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Chile, Czech Republic.
While there is a long way to go for LGBTQ+ equality in all countries, I remain unflinchingly optimistic. I say this because I once interned at an LGBTQ+ non-profit, and being able to see a group of people who worked endlessly to make marriage equality happen is truly amazing. It was through my internship that I was able to meet Edie Windsor , who had sued the government over the estate of her wife because the federal government didn’t recognize her marriage due to section 3 of DOMA which defined marriage as something that’s between a man and a woman. At one point, I am sure that the people involved with Edie’s court case felt that there were so many things that people hadn’t thought would be possible, at least in their lifetime. The fact that same-sex marriage was able to become legalized and have a high level of support in conservative countries (and even in some states) proves that there is still room for improvement.
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Last week, the Senate unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, a holiday to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States . For many this is a welcome recognition of a long ignored end to a horrific chapter in American history. However, a good portion of Americans, the word “Juneteenth’ and what it represents remains largely unexplored as many historical events such as Juneteenth have gone unnoticed in the schools’ curriculum. Speaking of my personal experience, I knew about Juneteenth a few years ago--after I had graduated from college. The history of this day, and many similar events was not a part of my education and everything that I have learned about Juneteenth was through articles which is unfortunate, but hopefully with the new holiday, it will be an impetus for schools to discuss how important it is that this day is remembered and celebrated.
In honor of Juneteenth, I’d thought it’ll be great to share some resources that I think are great for learning more about this day:
For a brief overview on the history of Juneteenth, the NY Times does a good job on covering the significance of the date and the history behind it.
PBS has a great episode on the history of Juneteenth and how gentrification threatens the livelihood of Black Americans in Austin.
For a great primary source on Juneteenth, the National Archives has a scan on one of the original orders to end slavery in Texas
There is a great collection of stories and resources at the National Museum of African American History & Culture
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As I’m thinking about the start of the new school year I’m brainstorming the return to campus. At my community college, a return to campus in September will mean students in the physical classrooms after nearly eighteen months of remote learning. I’m wondering how to help students reconnect in that physical space after working independently for so long. Usually the first day of classes is spent discussing the syllabus and course expectations. While these tasks will still be part of my plan, I’ve decided to also have students group-share on that first day to discuss how their working lives have changed as a result of the pandemic. Here are some of the questions I will have students address in small groups: Did you work before the pandemic began? If so, what did you do? How did the earliest months of the pandemic impact your personal work life or the experiences of those with whom you live? Did you change jobs during the pandemic? If so, why/why not? What was your experience seeking work during the pandemic? How could a historian document your pandemic work experience? What artifacts may exist that could help tell the story of your experience in the future? What do you want students one hundred years from now to know about your pandemic-era work experiences? I’m inspired to start the semester with this discussion because I believe that the majority of my students or their families will have experienced some significant work-related changes during the pandemic era. We spend a great deal of time in my US history classes studying the changes that came about during the First and Second World Wars in regards to work. The most recognizable icon to students on the first day of US History II is always “Rosie the Riveter” -- even if they cannot explain her significance they are able to link her to World War II. I’m hoping to help students to see that their experiences during the pandemic will one day be the subject of study in history classes. In addition, I’m hoping that by focusing on work rather than health issues during the pandemic I can help the students connect to each other without delving too deeply into painful personal experiences/losses that may have occurred as a result of COVID-19. I want the students, from the very first day back together in the classroom, to be reminded of their shared experiences as a society over the past eighteen months. Do you have any plans for re-integrating students into the physical classroom this fall? Please share.
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Historical views of Pride Month often focus on influential figures in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. But, there are many LGBTQ+ individuals throughout history who are known primarily for other activities.
Here are a few brief biographies of my personal favorite historical figures. Let us know who else you would add to this list in celebrating Pride this June!
Emily Dickinson is undoubtedly one of the greatest poets in the history of the genre. She’s also often portrayed in popular culture as a shut-in, writing her iconic poetry alone. But, recent scholars have worked to uncover her lasting relationship with her sister-in-law and lifetime friend Susan Gilbert. You can read portions of the letters between these two women and potential lovers here .
Sally Ride , physicist and astronaut, holds many firsts in the realm of space travel. After deciding to become an astronaut while eating scrambled eggs , Ride became the first female capsule communicator, the first woman on a shuttle crew, the first American woman to fly in space, and the youngest American in space. Ride’s career also included co-founding Sally Ride Science to encourage girls to study STEM.
The world learned after Ride’s death that she was also the first LGBTQ+ individual to fly in space. Ride had been in a relationship with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, whom she met playing tennis as a girl in California , for 27 years before Ride’s death in 2012.
Angela Davis comes up often in discussions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and rightfully so. Davis also continues to be an educator and civil rights activist, and her vast work ranges from supporting three incarcerated individuals of Soledad Prison to writing groundbreaking books like her 2003 work Are Prisons Obsolete? Davis is also a queer woman, and the GLBT Historical Society showcased an exhibition, Angela Davis: Outspoken , in 2018, highlighting Davis as an influential queer figure.
Marlene Dietrich was a bisexual actress most famous for her film and music career in the 1930s and 1940s. Her work includes roles in Morocco (1930) and Shanghai Express (1932). This German-born performer also became an American citizen in 1939, at the beginning of World War II, and conducted openly anti-fascist humanitarian work. Dietrich is well known too as a style icon famous for her androgynous outfits, including the “ Dietrich silhouette .”
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Vice President Kamala Harris faced criticism this week for telling Guatemalans not to come to the US/Mexican border seeking entry without first following other pathways to citizenship. Whether or not we concur with the White House’s stance on undocumented people and conditions at the US/Mexican border, as historians we can agree that our students know more about the political mud-slinging that goes on in relation to immigration policy than they do about the countries that are the birthplaces of millions of people who desire economic opportunity and security here in the United States. I am acutely aware of the students’ frustration with this lack of knowledge because I teach at a community college with a large population of students whose families are from the Caribbean and Latin America. In most cases, the students themselves were either born in the United States or were brought to this country at such a young age that they do not remember the living conditions that led to their families’ migrations. Often they will say they know only that their families were “extremely poor” or that one or both of their parents sought political asylum in the United States. Family members, the students tell their professors, are often reluctant to discuss the conditions that led to the immensely difficult decision to leave their homeland. It’s time for us, as historians, to help these young people understand their families’ origin stories. At my college we hope to start this process by hiring an historian who can teach courses specifically related to Latin America and the Caribbean, while also helping us to create a more globally-based survey course. None of this may sound groundbreaking to those of you who teach at universities with dozens of fields of specialization. However, those who teach at community colleges across the United States have long faced the challenge of teaching outside of our fields of expertise so that we can offer as many courses as possible. For an increasingly diverse student population, we must do better. Consider, for example, that the American Association of Community Colleges reported in 2019 that approximately 41% of all undergraduates in the US are enrolled at community colleges. When we look at statistics for Native American, Hispanic, and Black college students those numbers increase to 56%, 53%, and 43% respectively. It’s well past time, then, for community colleges to commit to more diversity in their history curriculum and to offer content beyond the traditional US history and Western Civilization courses that have typically transferred seamlessly to four-year colleges. If students of color are taking their first college history courses at community colleges, those courses need to not only educate them about important historical events but also help them to see where they -- as people -- fit into the narrative of world history. For first-generation Americans and first-generation college students this need is especially great. To my fellow community college faculty, a question: what courses is your department offering outside of the traditional US and Western Civilization surveys? How have students responded to the offerings? Is enrollment strong or struggling? I’d love to hear from Macmillan Community faculty grappling with this important challenge.
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Macmillan Learning author Mia Bay joins Radio Times to discuss her book Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance. Bay sits down with the WHYY production team and tells the story of the rise in travel segregation and the fight for equality on the road and in courts.
Bay is also one of the three authors of the third edition of Freedom on My Mind, a narrative that follows African American’s quest for freedom as the central theme and situates that quest in the context of American history.
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To close out Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) Heritage Month, I’d thought it'd be great to highlight the contributions Asian Americans had made. Here are just some of the many that have contributed to American society:
Amanda Nguyen--Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for creating the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Act of 2016 which guarantees survivors a rape kit at no cost, and requires all kits to be preserved for 20 years¹.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu--Played a key role in doing research for the Manhattan Project and for contributing to the physics, biology, and medicine field².
Wong Kim Ark--Famous for challenging the United States in the case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, Wong Kim Ark helped establish the 14th Amendment which guarantee all people born in the United States citizenship³.
Larry Itliong--Organized the Delano Grape Strike in 1965 which would eventually lead to the creation of the United Farm Workers⁴ .
1. Yuko, Elizabeth. “8 Groundbreaking Contributions by Asian Americans Through History.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, March 31, 2021. https://www.history.com/news/asian-american-inventions-contributions.
2. “Strength in Diversity – Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.” Energy.gov. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://www.energy.gov/articles/strength-diversity-celebrating-asian-american-pacific-islander-heritage-month.
3. “CAPAC Marks Anniversary of Pivotal Supreme Court Ruling on Citizenship.” CAPAC Marks Anniversary of Pivotal Supreme Court Ruling on Citizenship | Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). CAPAC. Accessed May 28, 2021. https://capac-chu.house.gov/press-release/capac-marks-anniversary-pivotal-supreme-court-ruling-citizenship.
4. “10 Influential Asian American and Pacific Islander Activists.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, May 11, 2021. https://www.biography.com/news/asian-american-pacific-islander-activists.
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This past semester a kind of remote-learning fatigue seemed to set in amongst my students. Coupled with my own remote-teaching fatigue, final projects were less ambitious than in previous years and took me much longer to grade. I’ve decided that summer is a good time for a reboot of the semester-long research project to re-energize my instruction and help students to focus on the quality of each individual part of their research project. I’m teaching a six-week intensive Black History course this summer and instead of assigning the research project at the start and then waiting to see the results at the end of the session, I’m breaking the assignment into four parts that will be submitted separately. The goal of the project is for students to research an aspect of Black History that we will not cover in detail as a class but relates directly to the larger themes and content. Together the four parts will comprise a research project, but students will be graded on each individual section as it is completed rather than on one document at the course’s end. Here is my work-in-progress plan for what will be submitted in each part of the project during the six-week course: Part One (due Week Two) Topic with thesis statement and defined parameters. Example: a study of the life/work of Martin Luther King, Jr., would be too broad for this project but a study of the significance of MLK’s work in Montgomery in 1955 or Birmingham in 1963 would work well. Draft Works Cited: three secondary sources in MLA format. Sources will be articles retrieved from College Library’s databases; students will receive support from a reference librarian. Part Two (due Week Three) In 2-3 detailed paragraphs, explain the who/what/where/when/how of the topic. Use in-text citations (MLA format) to identify sources used. Part Three (due Week Four) Three annotated primary sources providing examples to support information presented in Part Two and illustrate key aspects of the topic. Examples: images of subject/events, newspaper/magazine articles from period, segments of speeches/letters/writings from period. Each source should have a 1-2 sentence annotation to explain its relevance to the topic. Primary sources may come from academic databases or from the general web. Sources must be cited in MLA format. Part Four (due Week Five) Two paragraph conclusion that addresses historical significance Where does the topic fit within the wider framework of our course? What was the long-term impact of the topic on the history of the era we are studying? Final version of Works Cited page It is my hope that by deconstructing this research assignment my students will experience the value of producing quality components that together create a well thought-out project. I would love to hear from anyone who has tried this kind of piece-by-piece assignment and whether they were satisfied with the results. Any pitfalls I need to be prepared for? Suggestions welcome!
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Last week in his blog post “History of Violence in the Chinese Community ” my Macmillan Community colleague Steven Huang emphasized the importance of studying the historical origins of the anti-Asian violence that we have seen dramatically increase since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In particular, Steven encourages us to listen to the voices of Asian-American people across the United States as we search for a more comprehensive approach to anti-racism. I’ve been particularly struck by the increased media attention on anti-Asian violence because so many of the students at the community college where I teach identify as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI). In my US History II survey class we study the nineteenth-century origins of anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment in the western part of the United States. Students in the course have researched Angel Island and Japanese Picture Brides for their independent projects, and the centerpiece of our discussion of World War II is the internment of people of Japanese descent from 1942-1945. And yet, there is so much more that we could/should be covering to gain a more complete picture of the history of AAPI people in the United States. It stands to reason, then, that many of us who teach US history need to increase the presence of AAPI in our survey courses. Here are some web-based resources that I have found useful: A great place to start the search for new material to share with students is Elizabeth Kleinrock’s article “After Atlanta: Teaching About Asian American Identity and History” ( Learning for Justice, 17 March 2021). “ I can’t change the past...” Kleinrock writes, “But what I can do in this moment is direct these emotions into action to take one step towards ensuring that no Asian child is called ‘Kung-flu’ by a classmate and that my students will not grow up to harass and attack people of Asian descent on the street.” Kleinrock shares the results from having surveyed her students about their knowledge of Asian Americans after the Atlanta attack, and then identifies materials that can help begin the conversation about AAPI history in the classroom. Numerous government historical repositories including the Library of Congress and the National Archives are hosting a joint web site for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month . In addition to finding links to videos from the Smithsonian’s historical collections, teachers and students can access numerous primary sources and lesson plans on such topics as the annexation of Hawaii, immigration, and exclusion. The University of Southern California library system has developed an extensive digital finding aid for primary sources related to AAPI . In addition to print sources and dozens of photographs, the site contains images of artifacts found as the result of archeological digs in California. Students will be fascinated to see the items retrieved from the site of a former Chinese laundry (circa 1880-1933), among other interesting pieces of social and cultural history. Any conversation about the history of immigration to the United States is incomplete without discussion of Angel Island, the Pacific Coast’s point of entry from 1910 to 1940. It has been my experience that the majority of college students have no idea that immigrants entered the country through any place but Ellis Island (New York). The Angel Island Immigration Foundation site documents a period when people from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, South America, Russia, Asia and the Pacific Islands sought entry to the United States through the island off of San Francisco. Immigration restrictions placed on people of Asian descent made the process extremely complex and stressful in these years, and Angel Island served as a location at which authorities could separate the immigrants by nationality to prevent the entry of “excluded” people. A simple Google search for AAPI-related historical materials will lead to many more open resources -- what I’m offering in this blog is merely a starting point. It is critical that we convey to students that any discussion of race/racism must include the challenges faced by the AAPI communities throughout our national history. The willingness to include these groups in our course curriculum is a great way to start students on the path to deeper understanding.
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Violence towards the AAPI community isn’t something new. A few weeks ago, members of the Chinese community gathered and rallied in protest of anti-Asian violence and racism in response to the shootings in Georgia and in response to the harmful language aimed towards members of the community. As an Asian American, it's heartbreaking--and that's putting it lightly--to constantly hear about the attacks that have been happening since last year. With increased news coverage on the AAPI community, I think that that it's important to know that this has happened before.
There are three famous incidents that I know of that is significant to Chinese American history:
Rock Springs Massacre in 1885.
Chinese Massacre in 1871
The murder of Vincent Chin
The Rock Springs Massacre in 1885: White coal miners in Wyoming, protest their employers hiring Chinese laborers because it would be cheaper for them to do so, then attack them which results in 28 Chinese people being killed, 15 injured¹.
Chinese Massacre in 1871: With the death of a community member during a shootout between a group of Chinese people, around 500 mobsters dragged the people who were involved in the altercation and hung them--killing 17 Chinese people, 10% of the Chinese population in LA at that time was wiped out in a single day².
The murder of Vincent Chin-- Vincent Chin, who was mistaken for a Japanese man, was killed by two auto workers who had blamed him for losing their jobs in the automotive industry³. There is so so much that had happened during and after the court case that can be better explained by reading the article below.
I bring up these three incidents to highlight the similarities between what happened then and now: all three cases of violence stemmed from racism and xenophobia which is then further amplified when demagogues are given a soapbox to make derogatory comments much akin to what’s been happening in the past year. Much of this is new to the people outside of the AAPI community, but for people like me, this is something that has been going on for all of my life and I feel like it’s something that has been overlooked time after time. I believe that making a difference, being an anti-racist, starts with listening to what people have to say: every community has their story and it’s vital for all of us to make an effort to educate ourselves on what’s going on and to take what they have to say seriously. Instead of offering solutions that you think are helpful, listen to what community members have to say.
“Chinese Miners Are Massacred in Wyoming Territory,” November 16, 2009. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/whites-massacre-chinese-in-wyoming-territory.
Forgotten Los Angeles History: The Chinese Massacre of 1871. Accessed April 30, 2021. https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/chinese-massacre-1871.
Little, Becky. “How the 1982 Murder of Vincent Chin Ignited a Push for Asian American Rights.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, May 5, 2020. https://www.history.com/news/vincent-chin-murder-asian-american-rights.
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