Digitizing Chinese Immigration in Our New Innovation Hub

Document Digitization During Primarily Teaching Workshop

Teacher Nicole Thornton scans a document in the “Hub” during Primarily Teaching.

This past week, we were excited to host our Primarily Teaching summer institute in our new Innovation Hub at the National Archives in Washington, DC!  For this summer workshop, educators from around the country came to research our holdings to find and digitize documents suitable for lesson plans and classroom activities dealing with Chinese immigration.

Beginning in the 1850s, Chinese immigrants came in search of work laboring in gold mines or on the railroad. But the Chinese who crossed the Pacific were met with challenges. Economic pressures fostered ethnic discrimination and anti-Chinese sentiment in America, culminating in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

Despite suspicions and strict immigration policies, Chinese laborers, families, and merchants continued finding their way into the country and avoiding deportation.  Angel Island in California became the most famous—and hardest—way for the immigrants to enter America.  But many Chinese took their cases to ports across the country, while others turned to smugglers at the Mexican and Canadian borders.

Documents Scanned During Primarily Teaching

Page 8 from a Letter from Commissioner-General F. P. Sargent to Inspector in Charge George W. Webb, 1/8/1907; Business Card for Chinese Interpreter L. A. Fawn, 1906; and Photograph Attached to Application of Wong Bong Siao to Enter the United States as a Native-born Citizen, 8/28/1889 from the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Available on DocsTeach.

Due to the dedicated work of the Primarily Teaching educators, various types of documents related to Chinese Immigration have been scanned and made available on DocsTeach—our online tool for teaching with documents—for anyone curious on the subject.

Primarily Teaching Workshop Presentation

Teacher Melissa Taylor presents the online DocsTeach activity she created using National Archives documents.

Washington, DC, is one of five National Archives locations hosting Primarily Teaching this summer.  Fitting with the broader National History Day theme of “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History,” each Primarily Teaching workshop focuses on a specific case study topic.

Thanks to the educators who were digitizing in our Innovation Hub this past week, affidavits, letters, newspaper clippings, and other interesting documents relating to Chinese immigration can now be accessed on DocsTeach.

The National Archives at Seattle held their Primarily Teaching institute during the same week, so check back with us shortly to discover what they found!

Primarily Teaching is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of Texas Instruments and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

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9 Responses to Digitizing Chinese Immigration in Our New Innovation Hub

  1. Sue says:

    Was a specific series scanned or just individual documents? From which series did the documents come?

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    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Sue!

      All of the records come from Record Group 85: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The vast majority (90 records) are from the series “Chinese General Correspondence, 1898 – 1908” (National Archives Identifier 4708297). Eight more documents come from the series “Subject and Policy Files, 1893 – 1957” (National Archives Identifier 559947). You can see all of the documents on DocsTeach. And they will be available in our main online catalog in the coming weeks!

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  2. Meg says:

    There are numerous NARA images re Chinese Exclusion and Chinese Immigration already on Ancestry–including various files/series from Pennsylvania, Texas, California, New York, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon… Perhaps you can incorporate some of these into DocsTeach as they become available…

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  3. Sue says:

    Meg’s comment made me realize that I needed to remind you that there are a number of Chinese Exclusion records from RGs 21 and 85 that are already in the Catalog from a number of field facilities.

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    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks, Sue! We have several items from those record groups in DocsTeach already — but if there are any in particular that you think would make good teaching tools, please let us know!

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