Activity 1: Mapping Stereotypes in 1800s San Francisco Chinatown
Recommend assigning to students before class as homework
Step 1 (5-7 min)
Split students into pairs and compare their maps to each other. Encourage students to think about how the perspective of the map-maker (or cartographer) affects their view of the neighborhood and how they designed the map. Students should discuss the following guiding questions:
Step 2 (5-7 min)
Facilitate a brief classroom discussion on what students noticed about the differences in their maps and what that means for the purposes of their maps. Guide students to consider how maps contain the biases of the creator, so they may not be objective. By critically analyzing the goal or purpose of a map, we can better understand how maps may be biased or fail to reveal the whole picture.
Step 3 (5 min)
Introduce the 1885 Chinatown map activity by giving students a section of the “Official Map of “Chinatown” in San Francisco” (1885). Students can access a high resolution image of this map here. This map was created when a special survey was commissioned by the San Francisco government after multiple smallpox epidemics had broken out in the city. Chinese immigrants were targeted and blamed for spreading the epidemic, with little evidence. As part of this survey, officials entered every room and floor of Chinatown, noting elements like the number of inhabitants and sanitary condition of the rooms, which they described in an accompanying report on Chinatown for the public.
Step 4 (10 min)
Distribute the worksheet (download available at tinyurl.com/smallpoxlesson), and instruct students to examine the map on their own. They should observe and write down their answers to the questions on the handout. Questions copied below for teacher reference:
Step 5 (15 min)
Once students are finished with the worksheet, lead a class discussion using the following questions.
Recommend assigning to students to complete after class
Ask students to write a reflection (or journal entry, if your class uses journals) responding to the following prompt (worksheet available here):
Joss House: Chinese temple or shrine
Opium: an addictive drug which can be smoked
Gambling: playing games of chance like card games (ex. poker) for money
Pawn broker: someone who takes a valuable object and loans money to the owner in exchange for it. Once the money is repaid, the object is returned.
Stereotype: a widely held idea of a type of person or thing