Chinese Exclusion Act & Immigration in America set for NEH Summer Institute Project

“The Chinese Exclusion Act and Immigration in America” is a two week National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute program and project.  The program of study will primarily take place at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York City, the leading museum and archive dedicated to reclaiming, preserving and presenting the history and culture of Chinese people in the United States.
The program will be focused on the enactment and legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882- 1965. Based on a fear of “foreigners,” this law codified Anglo-American fears into a continued series of immigration and citizenship laws which banned all Chinese worked from entering the United States unless they were part of the small exempt groups of merchants, scholars, students, and diplomats. This was the nation’s first government-issued identification system, which also documented all admitted and rejected Chinese immigrants.
Chinese Americans and immigrants resisted this law, protested it, fought against it in court, and defied it by entering the country through other means. In 1892, The Exclusion Act was renewed with even tighter restrictions. Congress continued to tighten border controls and created a systematic immigration control system. The Exclusion Act was not repealed until 1943.
This Act was a push to clarify who could be considered a “normal” American. These immigration policies mirrored the nation’s domestic policies of Jim Crow segregation, as well as the institutionalization and sterilization of those deemed to be not racially “fit” Americans. On June 18th, 2012 the United States Congress passed a resolution expressing regret for its 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first such statement in the 130 years since the Act’s passing.
For teachers interested in exploring this issue, the program application deadline is March 1st, 2016. The Institute provides K-12 teachers with the opportunity to learn from leading scholars in the field and work with primary materials and artifacts. Participants will also develop pedagogical approaches for integrating these unique objects and original documents into their local school curriculum and explore new perspectives on the history of immigration, citizenship, and what it means to be American. For more information, please visit:

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