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Teaching Guide: Exploring Early Chinese Immigration to the US

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Early Chinese Immigration to the US, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Look at the deposition of a “non-Chinese witness” and the application of a “lawfully domiciled” Chinese merchant, teacher or student. Why are questions about labor such a big part of the immigration process for Chinese immigrants? How does this relate to the Chinese Exclusion Act?

  2. Compare and contrast the three political cartoons from 1870, 1871, and 1882. How are America and its politicians depicted? How are Chinese immigrants depicted? What does each cartoon say about the issue of Chinese immigration? What is each cartoon trying to make the reader to feel and how does the artist work to create that feeling?

  3. Use the items in this set as evidence to explain the kinds of discrimination Chinese immigrants faced in the United States during this period.

Classroom activities

Read the translations of the wife’s letters from China to her husband in America. Imagine that you live at this time and are acquainted with the husband of this woman. Write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper explaining how American laws/practices should be revised in the light of what you know about this family.

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