Chinese American History Field Trips

By UCBerkeleyAAADS

The six thousand pound granite monument was recently moved from the dining hall location to an overlook. The granite carving translates: “Leaving their homes and villages, they crossed the ocean only to endure confinement in these barracks. Conquering frontiers and barriers, they pioneered a new life by the Golden Gate.”

Students from both AAS20A-FPF and AAS121 at the boat dock to the Angel Island Immigration Station where the early Chinese immigrants landed and awaited medical examinations.

On September 27, 2009, Lecturer Harvey Dong led his Chinese American History class on a field trip to the second annual Chinatown Mall Culture Fair in Sacramento Chinatown. Students traveled by Amtrak to the exact location in Sacramento where the Western half of the Transcontinental Railroad began. Across the street from the train station was the location of the culture fair inside Chinatown. The first stop was the local Chinese school gym, which was filled with photo display panels on Chinese American history. Students ate lunch in the Ong Ko Met Family Association Hall, where old-timers were happy to speak with students about early immigrant organizations. After lunch, Harvey Dong moderated an afternoon community panel on Chinese American history. Presenters included Eddy Wong from the Angel Island Immigration Foundation, Felicia Lowe, director of Carved in Silence, historian Judy Yung (Ethnic Studies PhD 1990), author of Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco, and writer Eddy Fung, creator of The Adventure of Eddie Fung: Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War. Students also visited Fort McDowell, another historic site on Angel Island, which was used for military purposes, such as receiving troops returning from the Spanish American War in the Philippines, and holding prisoners of war during WW2. Students toured the Immigration Station, which 175,000 Chinese immigrants passed through between 1910 and 1940.

The site is presently being reconditioned as a remembrance of Asian Exclusion. Dong gave a presentation on the history of the location, and a friendly guide inside the barracks introduced the numerous poems carved into the walls by former immigrant internees. Invaluable gems of history, the poetry poignantly described immigrant hopes dashed through detainment, interrogation, and the thought of possible deportation. Students copied down the poems onto note cards to report back for discussion.