From Project to Foundation
Background: The 1882 Foundation promotes public awareness of the history and continuing significance of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. These laws were first enacted in 1882. They prohibited Chinese from immigrating to the United States and barred them from citizenship. In 1943, Congress rescinded the laws for political military reasons. There was no acknowledgment of six decades of federally sanctioned violations of civil rights, racial discrimination’s or violent attacks to generations Chinese in America.
Not until 2011 and 2012, after the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Committee of 100, Japanese American Citizens League, National Council of Chinese Americans, OCA-Asian American Advocates, and Covington and Burling LLP joined together in a national effort, did Congress admit wrong and condemn the laws. The successful passage of unanimous Senate and House resolutions (introduced by Senator Scott Brown and Representative Judy Chu) reaffirmed Congress’s responsibility to protect the civil rights of all people in the United States. It has set the stage for a Presidential Statement of Apology.
While that goal is being pursued, the 1882 Foundation continues to broaden public understanding of the laws, their history and relevance today. It does this through programs and supporting projects that preserve and interpret the history of Chinese in America about their contributions in forming and enriching the American nation.
Three Program Initiatives:
Talk Story and History Through Places — “Talk Story” is both process and concept. As concept, it draws from the Hawaii oral tradition and early Asian American Literature movement. Essentially, it is about revealing and recording oral histories and folk stories.
Undergirding this process is the idea that people coming together to share stories strengthens the community. The process allows individuals to define themselves in their own words to secure their own identities.
In DC, monthly Talk Story Events rotate among Chinatown venues to include the Chinatown Service Center, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Chinatown Community and Cultural Center. OCA and Chinese American Citizens Alliance strongly supported Talk Story events. At the OCA National Conference in 2013, a “Talk Story Corner” supported Story Corps from National Public Radio to record “conversations between generations.” The Chinese American Citizens Alliance built interest in oral histories and site preservation’s around the country through its promotion of Talk Story events and heritage tours. The tours are being planned with the US Forest Service and others. The Foundation participated in “Talk Story on the Mall” during the 2014 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. We produced a film “April 1968″ as the first episode in a series of eight short documentaries “Through Chinatown’s Eyes.” The films seek to document the history of DC Chinatown through oral histories. They also explore themes familiar to other Chinatowns –relevant identity, pressing gentrification, evolving traditions–and the Chinese American experience.
Lesson Plans and Teacher Workshops – While Talk Story uncovers stories, educators explain their broader social and political context. Revising text books remains important as discussed at a conference in Sacramento, but the Foundation efforts have moved toward working with state governments on core standards and with local districts on lesson plans and teacher workshops.
Seattle educators developed lesson plans and presented them to the National council for Social Studies in Seattle and at a national C.A.C.A. convention in Oakland. Supported by the Foundation, educators presented at the Virginia Consortium of Social Studies Specialists and College Educators. Ideas focused on meeting state standards of learning through Chinese American historical examples and the 1882 Project. There was a follow up exhibit at the 2013 NCSS conference in St Louis. Virginia supporters presented at state and local conferences as well as approached state education officials. In Oregon and Washington state, supporters met with state legislators about the history and significance of Chinese Exclusion laws and curriculum content.
The Foundation’s efforts focus on 5-12 grade levels. We want to encourage new lesson plans while cataloguing existing plans to establish an on-line bank of teaching material. Another goal is to establish a national speakers bureau on Chinese American history and heritage.
Partnerships in Collaboration: 1882 Symposium — As stories are revealed through Talk Story, and significance is explained by educators through lesson plans, the Foundation’s third initiative takes on the question of how to reach the general public effectively.
From its formation, the 1882 Project (now the 1882 Foundation as a 501(c)3 organization) has sought to establish a national network of private and public agencies collaborating to preserve and explain the history of the Chinese in America. Thus, with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the 1882 Foundation hosted the 1882 Symposium in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, the Smithsonian Center for Folk Life and Cultural Heritage joined the third symposium around ideas to explore elements of a “digital platform” and visions of what can be done more effectively by working together than working alone.
Each symposium brings together museums and historical societies from around the country and public and private agencies based in DC* to discuss ways to sustain the educational effort. And, to encourage the growth of Asian American museums, the Foundation has provided scholarships for start-up programs in under-served areas to attend the symposiums.
The event allows museums, historical societies and private and public agencies to share best practices and strengthen collaborations. We envision the hub of the collaborative network crystalizing into a “National Chinatown Visitors and Talk Story Center” where interactive portals allow visitors to experience the richness of exhibits and programs of each museum and historical site throughout the United States.
The Foundation promotes traveling exhibits and digital museums. It seeks funding solutions and active dialogue on creative approaches to historical preservation. These approaches include working with Chambers of Commerce and efforts to amend the American Travel Promotion Act so that fees collected for marketing America to international tourists can be used for local historical preservation and program enhancements.
An illustration of collaboration at its best, the Foundation partnered with the Alexandria Black History Museum for a week of activities in September/October 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (Hart-Celler Act) and the Votng Rights Act. They were both parts of the Civil Rights Movement. The case of Gong Lum v. Rice in Mississippi foreshadowed Brown v. Board of Education by 30 years.
*Symposium participants have included the Chinese Historical Society of America and Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation from San Francisco, Chinese American Museum from Los Angeles, Museum of Chinese America from New York, Wing Luke Asian Museum from Seattle, Asian American Association of New Mexico, and the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum, Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Parks Service, Institute for Museum and Library Services, National Trust for Historic Preservation, US Citizenship and Immigration Service Historical Library, and U.S. Forest Service. Other participants include Association of Asians American Studies, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Committee of 100, National Council of Chinese Americans and OCA-Asian American Advocates. ##
The 1882 Project Foundation is an IRS-approved 501(C)(3) entity organized in the State of Virginia. OCA acts as the Foundation’s fiscal agent. Donations are tax deductible. Make checks payable to “1882 Project Foundation.” Mail to: 1882 Project – OCA, 1322 18th Street NW, Washington DC, 20036. For more information, go to www.1882Project.org.
The 1882 Project: A nonpartisan, grassroots effort to address the Chinese Exclusion Laws
What are the Chinese Exclusion Laws? The Chinese Exclusion Laws involved legislation Congress passed between 1870 and 1904 that explicitly discriminated against persons of Chinese descent based on race. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed a ten-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration, which was later expanded to apply to all persons of Chinese descent. Congress revisited the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1884, 1888, 1892, 1902, and 1904, each time imposing increasingly severe restrictions on immigration and naturalization. Although the Chinese Exclusion Laws were repealed in 1943 as a war measure after China became a World War II ally of the United States, Congress has never expressly acknowledged that the laws singling out and ostracizing Chinese persons violated fundamental civil rights.
What significance and impact did the Chinese Exclusion Laws have? The six decades of anti-Chinese legislation contradicted the Declaration of Independence’s basic founding principle that all persons are created equal, and the guarantees of the 14th and 15th amendments. The Congressional debates accompanying the laws condoned anti-Chinese attitudes by frequently portraying Chinese immigrants as “aliens, not to be trusted with political rights” and not able to assimilate in America. By directly targeting persons of Chinese descent for physical and political exclusion, the laws legitimized the political alienation and persecution of Chinese laborers and settlers. In California alone, there were over 200 “roundups” to physically expel Chinese persons. The laws affected the ability of Chinese persons to pursue life in America without fear, and impaired the establishment of Chinese family life in America.
What is the 1882 Project? The 1882 Project is a nonpartisan, grassroots effort focused on educating lawmakers and the public the Chinese Exclusion Laws and the impact such legislation had on our history. The 1882 Project successfully worked with the 112th Congress to secure the passage of two resolutions (H Res. 683 and S. Res. 201) expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Several national civil rights organizations spearhead the 1882 Project: the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the Committee of 100, the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Council of Chinese Americans, and OCA.
What Congressional resolutions did we seek? The Congressional resolutions whose passage we helped secure formally acknowledge and express regret at the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Through the resolutions, Congress reaffirmed its commitment to protect the civil rights of all people in the United States. We did not seek any monetary reparations because it is impossible to identify all the individuals harmed and to quantify the harm meaningfully. We asked Congress to pass the resolutions because only a sitting Congress has the power to acknowledge history and to make amends. The Senate passed S. Res. 201 on October 6, 2011, and the House passed H. Res. 683 on June 18, 2012. We were only able to achieve this through the tireless leadership of Representative Judy Chu and Senator Scott Brown, who sponsored the resolutions and championed our cause, the numerous Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle that co-sponsored the legislation, and our countless supporters and advocates.
How did you help? Congress acts when it hears from concerned citizens who urge it to prioritize and pass the resolutions on the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Constituents who support the 1882 Project contacted their Members of Congress to let them know how important the resolutions are to them, and educated others about the 1882 Project. We hope that the 1882 Project will continue to enjoy widespread support. Please donate to the 1882 Project to help fund our education efforts to ensure that future generations learn about the Chinese Exclusion Laws and the resolutions expressing regret for their passage.