The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The World Is Our Campus

The Arcadia Quill

The History of Chinese Americans in the US


During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sudden increase in the number of hate crimes directed towards Asian Americans after Mar. 16, 2020. This string of hate crimes “[were] not sustained” following these dates, according to the National Library of Medicine. This string of crimes, however, made it all the more important for Asian Americans all over the country to understand their roots and how they became established in the US. The Chinese American Museum (CAM) in Los Angeles, CA, has become the epitome of cultural representation, as they’ve made it their mission to help Chinese Americans understand their roots and how they’ve slowly, but surely, built their numbers to what they are now. 

Right after entering the museum, you are greeted by a map that asks you about where your “home” is and how your family originally got established in the US. This is the perfect segue to the timeline in the museum that essentially outlines how Chinese Americans got established in the US. Part of the timeline outlines how the 14th Amendment was enacted. 

According to this amendment states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  

According to Nancy and Roger, the Amendment was enacted during a time when the government didn’t want any more Chinese entering the country; so, they made it significantly harder for immigrants when entering through Angel Island. However, after Wong Kim Ark, was visiting family and came back to the US, he found that he was unable to re-enter the country, even though he was born here. So, after Ark won his lawsuit, the 14th  Amendment declared people who were born in the US were automatically granted citizenship. 

Aside from that, however, there were many more aspects of the museum that almost took you through a walk of time. For example, the room following the entrance, you’ll notice that the floors are a little bit creaky. Can you guess why? It is because the place where the CAM resides is actually one of the oldest surviving buildings in the old Chinatown! So as a result, the building on the other side of the entrance is full of history; from how the Chinese Americans originally made their money (which was primarily through dry cleaning, food services, and “convenience” type stores). 

On the second level, the CAM begin to connect the history of Chinese Americans originally immigrating in the 1850s to current times where the CAM display images of old cheerleading costumes, take-out menus, and old boxes where whole duck would be placed in so that the families at home could prepare, and cook it to their liking. In the final little nook of the exhibition, everything begins  to come full circle and the CAM connects how everything from the beginning of how Chinese Americans began immigrating to the US (during the Gold Rush) to how many Chinese owned stores cater to their community. 

Overall, the CAM allows people all over the world to further understand their knowledge of Chinese American history and how Chinese Americans immigrated to various parts of California in order to establish a better life for future generations.


Photo by Breeanna Pham

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