Forty years ago today...
Vietnamese fishermen were at the center of a court victory against the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. When thousands of Vietnamese refugees resettled in America after the fall of Saigon, many faced hostility from local, predominantly white communities. Tensions turned violent in Galveston, Texas, culminating in a ground-breaking civil suit brought by the Vietnamese Fishermen’s Association (VFA) against white supremacy. Read more to learn about how the case touches on issues at the intersection of civil rights, human rights, and immigrant rights, and ways to teach this case in your classroom!
During and after the Vietnam War, over 200,000 refugees resettled in the United States, fleeing Communist reeducation camps, famine, and poverty in their homeland. Many settled in the Galveston Bay area near Houston, Texas to work in the shrimping and fishing industry. While the earliest refugees were often high-ranking professionals and immigrated under President Ford’s 1975 Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, thousands of poorer refugees fled to America by boat. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people died tragically on these boat journeys. The plight of the “boat people” prompted President Jimmy Carter to pass the Refugee Act in 1980, which allowed for refugee exceptions to the 1965 Immigration Act’s visa quotas, and established a formal system for resettlement in the United States.
A $5,000 grant to Immigrant History Initiative awarded by CT Humanities will provide critical funding for the Immigrant History Initiative to maintain and expand educational resources on the histories of people of color.
Since the start of COVID-19 and the rise of anti-Asian racism, Immigrant History Initiative (IHI) has experienced unprecedented demand for resources to combat resurgent xenophobia during the pandemic. In response, IHI has developed free resources, including videos and live workshops and panels. Demand has only increased due to the timeliness of this work to address xenophobia and racism, while revenue streams have decreased due to the pandemic.
Read the full press release here.
IHI is partnering with Antiracist APUSH to adapt immigrant history lesson plans for the AP U.S. History curriculum! All lesson plans and activities will be fully aligned to AP standards. The first lesson plan, on Chinese labor and the transcontinental railroad, is now available and can be downloaded here.
The purpose of Antiracist APUSH is to help students identify and expose the racist policies that have led to the deplorable racial disparities in American society. This is achieved by exposing students to the research of leading professional historians. As Antiracist APUSH's founder, AP U.S. History teacher Matt Vriesman, notes: "Much structural change and healing is needed. As history teachers, we have an immense responsibility to confront racism and call it what it is."
The first lesson plan is aligned with AP U.S. History topic 6.8 (Immigration in the Gilded Age) and topic 6.2 (Westward Expansion). includes a full slide deck, lesson plan, and activities for students to practice document-based analysis and thesis-writing skills. Download the materials here.
Additional lesson plans will be coming out soon!
A $4,215 grant to Immigrant History Initiative awarded by Connecticut Humanities will provide tools and resources to parents in the state on talking about anti-Asian racism and Asian American identity.
The workshop will be geared toward parents in Connecticut who are looking for strategies and concrete tools to guide their children through thinking about Asian American identity and how to respond to anti-Asian racism, which has seen a significant uptick since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop will discuss the complex racial dynamics of Asian American identity, the history of anti-Asian racism and the current moment of resurgence, and trauma-informed practices and strategies for parents to utilize in discussing these important topics with their children.
Read the full press release here.
Immigrant History Initiative's innovative facilitation guide, Empathy during COVID, has been featured by the Harvard Graduate School of Education's publication, Usable Knowledge! Our facilitation guide empowers educators to use principles of restorative justice, including non-hierarchical dialogue and anti-racist relationship-building, to lead powerful conversations around race, anti-Asian discrimination, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harvard Graduate School of Education interviewed IHI Co-Founders Kathy Lu and Julia Wang, as well as our guest restorative justice expert, Sarah Appelbaum, on key strategies to tackle today's troubling racial dynamics.
Read the Usable Knowledge article, "Combatting Anti-Asian Racism," here.
At Immigrant History Initiative, we are dedicated to re-telling the history of the United States in ways that include the lives and experiences of people of color, beginning with the history of Asian Americans. This learning and un-learning process requires confronting the fact that America was built with the stolen labor of black slaves, and maintained by a system designed to dispossess black people of power, freedom and humanity.
It is the same system that imported thousands of Chinese laborers into the U.S., proposed to use them as a solution to the “problem” of emancipation, lynched them and expelled them from towns, and passed laws to exclude them. It is the same system that denied citizenship to immigrants of Asian origin for a century and imprisoned them on Angel Island for months to years as white officials interrogated the legality of their belonging. It is the same system that let the murderers of Vincent Chin off with a $3,000 fine after they beat him to death with a baseball bat for being a “Jap” who was stealing their jobs. It is the same system that incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII, interrogated and deported Chinese Americans during the Cold War, surveilled and detained Muslim Americans after 9/11, and continues to challenge the belonging of people in this country because of the color of their skin.
It is also the same system that uses the myth of a “model minority” to oppress black people, while continuing to exclude and deny belonging to those that it purports to elevate to whiteness.
As much as learning this history has taught us that racism is deeply, historically entrenched and systemic, it has also taught us that solidarity can prevail against white supremacy. In the 1960s, Asian Americans protested with African Americans against racism, imperialism, war, and xenophobia. Black, Asian, and Latinx students came together to form the Third World Liberation Front to fight for ethnic studies and self-determination through education. African American activists advocated for an end to racist immigration laws and to welcome Southeast Asian refugees. Without the Civil Rights Movement, there would be no Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and the United States would not be as diverse as it is today. These stories are endless, but they have also been suppressed systematically in an education system that prioritizes certain narratives over others.
We are committed to using history and education to un-learn these problematic narratives and work toward a just and anti-racist society. This mission necessitates that we:
Through solidarity, we build power. If any of this history sounds unfamiliar to you, we urge you to educate yourselves on all of it. Our resources are provided for free online, and we will continue sharing other sources to give a deeper understanding of the history of racism in this country.
Immigrant History Initiative
Other BLM Resources:
1. Spreadsheet of Education Resources and Literature and list of Black owned bookstores and book clubs: https://tinyurl.com/ycj6wqje
2. Document of BLM resources: https://tinyurl.com/ycw3zs9q
3. Document of additional BLM resources: https://tinyurl.com/ybw2hdg5
4. Reading and Media List: Born Black in the "Age of Mass Incarceration": https://tinyurl.com/yaejno42
5. Black History Month Reading List for Asian Americans: https://18millionrising.org/2020/02/bhm_reads.html
We are honored to be featured as the Spill the Boba podcast's first guests in honor of APA Heritage Month! Our co-founders, Julia and Kathy, discuss the IHI's beginnings and evolution, and give their own takes on Asian American identity. Listen to the podcast on Spotify, or at Buzzsprout.
A brief description of the podcast from Spill the Boba:
"It's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and our inaugural episode is all about Asian American history... or the lack thereof? We meet Kathy Lu and Julia Wang, co-founders of Immigrant History Initiative: a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2018. The organization produces a curriculum focused on immigrant histories and works with schools and communities to establish courses sharing this knowledge. They also provide teaching and course development, support in partnership with other organizations bringing immigrant histories into the mainstream. We'll talk about growing up Asian American and learn about some of our lesser-known histories, all while sipping boba from Coco."
We at the Immigrant History Initiative are heartbroken by the surge of anti-Asian attacks in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. This graphic explains the most troubling aspects of these attacks.
Attacks against Asian Americans reveal a complete lack of awareness for Asian American history and identity, and the integral role Asian Americans have played in the making of America. In light of the resurgence of xenophobia, hatred, and racism, we will be posting weekly mini-lessons to this page to educate the public about Asian American history and our community's deep roots in this country.
Our first video will be posted TOMORROW, Tuesday (4/7) at 5 PM! Please share our weekly mini-lessons to your own communities to combat the anti-Asian sentiment. Other lesson plans are also available for download on our website at immigranthistory.org/curriculum.
Stay tuned, stay informed, and stay healthy!
We are excited to announce a new project to produce curriculum for the upcoming PBS series, The Asian Americans.
The Asian Americans series is designed to engage the American public about the evolving identity, contributions, and challenges experienced by the nation’s fastest growing racial group. We will help develop lesson plans that accompany the PBS episodes for high school, middle school, and elementary school students. The Asian Americans is scheduled to begin airing May 2020.
Our New Haven Chinese American History pilot program wouldn’t be possible without our amazing volunteer teachers from Yale University! In May 2019, they received much- deserved recognition from the Yale Asian American Cultural Center (AACC) for their work on the pilot program.
The Yale Immigrant History Project, led by co- presidents Rita Wang and Alex Wang, are the recipients of the inaugural AACC Exemplary Social Justice Contribution award. Thank you for your commitment and your diligence!
The Yale Chinese American History Initiative team will continue strong in the coming year, helmed by rising junior Stella Xu.
Read about the latest updates on the Immigrant History Initiative's projects.