American historian Erika Lee found her Chinese grandmother’s file while doing research at the National Archives in San Bruno, California.
When 27-year-old Wong Lan Fong and her new husband, Yee Shew Ning, traveled to the United States, they were aware of anti-Chinese prejudices. They took measures to emphasize their respectability and economic status. They delayed their departure for the United States until they had enough money to travel in first class. They also submitted a letter from the clergyman who performed their wedding ceremony, attesting to their good character.
Immigration officials seized further evidence when they confiscated the couple’s wedding photograph as proof of their marriage. The couple’s strategy worked. They were detained on Angel Island only one day before being allowed to land.
Some 70 years later, their granddaughter, American historian Erika Lee, was conducting research for her book on Chinese immigration at the National Archives in San Bruno, California, when she discovered her grandparents’ wedding photograph in her grandmother’s immigration file. Since the photo was not returned and her grandparents could not make a copy, she had never seen it before.
Our “Attachments” exhibit closes September 4, so catch it while you can (http://www.archives.gov/nae/visit/gallery.html)!
Erika Lee’s grandfather saved his wages for an entire year to bring his wife (Ms. Lee’s grandmother) to the United States.
“Chinese immigrants really looked to the United States. They called it Gum Saan, or Gold Mountain,” Lee said. “The United States was seen as the place where you could make your dreams come true.”
Come see the exhibit soon—it closes on September 4!
Today at noon, Grace Delgado examines the Chinese diaspora in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands and looks at immigration, nationalism, and racism during the late 19th and early 20th century through the experiences of Chinese migrants in this region, against the backdrop of national unrest in Mexico and the era of exclusionary immigration policies in the United States. A book signing will follow the program.
“Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.–Mexico Borderlands” is today at noon in the McGowan Theater in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Enter in through the “Special Events” entrance.
Image: Photograph of Chun Jan Yut with His Father Chun Duck Chin, 1899
Can you translate Chinese? Would you like to try your hand with a few items from the holdings of the National Archives at Philadelphia?
This album contains miscellaneous documents from our Chinese Case files, part of Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85.
You can send your translations to firstname.lastname@example.org and selected entries will be featured on our Facebook page throughout the summer.