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Golden Door or Border War? Series: Boston and the Chinese Exclusion Act

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Registration is NOT required
Free and open to the public
Credit Chinese Historical Society

Boston and the Chinese Exclusion Act

Tunney Lee, Shauna Lo, and Lisong Liu

This panel, led by Tunney Lee with Shauna Lo and Lisong Liu, will cover the changing nature of Chinese immigration to Boston from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (CEA) through its repeal in 1943 to today.

Although the main driver for the CEA was West Coast conflicts between European settlers—recently arrived via transcontinental railroad—and Chinese immigrants, Boston and Massachusetts played key roles in the passage and enforcement of the law. Panelists will address Massachusetts political reactions to the CEA, Chinatown raids, East Boston’s immigration station, and more, continuing the conversation with the growth of the Chinese community in Boston and beyond following WWII.

This panel considers nationals laws through a local political and cultural lens to shed light on an aspect of immigration history that continues to this day.

Tunney Lee is professor emeritus of architecture and city planning at MIT and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Born in Taishan, Guangdong, China, Lee grew up in Boston’s Chinatown, attended the Quincy School and Boston Latin School. He holds a B.Arch from the University of Michigan and was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Rome. He has worked for Buckminster Fuller, I.M. Pei, Ulrich Franzen, and others and was chief of planning design for the Boston Redevelopment Authority and director of the Massachusetts Division of Capital Planning and Operations. He was head of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the founder of the Department of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His primary research focus is urban residential density, Boston’s Chinatown, and the planning history of Boston.

Credit Gordon R. WenzelLisong Liu is an associate professor of history at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His teaching and research interests focus on Chinese emigration and nation-building, post-1965 Asian-American communities, US-China relations, and comparative and global migrations. He has published in the Journal of Asian American Studies and the Journal of Chinese Overseas. His first book was published by Routledge in 2015 and was entitled Chinese Student Migration and Selective Citizenship: Mobility, Community and Identity between China and the United States.

Shauna Lo is assistant director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she administers the institute and assists on programs and research projects related to Asian-American communities in Massachusetts. Her scholarly articles have appeared in New England Quarterly, Asian American Law Journal, Chinese America: History and Perspectives, and New England Journal of Public Policy. Lo has a strong interest in Chinese American history and immigration during the Exclusion Era, particularly in the Boston area. She served on the Board of Directors for the Chinese Historical Society of New England for ten years and was a frequent contributor to their newsletter. Shauna received her BA and MA in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

In June 1870 Calvin Sampson hired Chinese workers from San Francisco to replace striking workers in his shoe factory in North Adams, Massachusetts. Harper’s Weekly ran stories on July 16 and July 30 on the Chinese workers about a month after their arrival in North Adams, including wood engravings depicting the workers on the factory floor, in the dormitories, and cooking their own cuisine.

This event is part of the “Golden Door or Border War?: United States Immigration from the 19th Century to Today,” a three-part series that investigates the turbulent past and present of immigration in the United States. Join us for the other events in the series:

The Boston Roots of the Trump Anti-Immigrant Playbook
Lecture with Boston Globe writer Neil Swidey
12-1 pm on September 26, 2017

Poets’ Theatre
An original performance based on immigration-related materials from the Athenæum's collections
6-7 pm on December 12, 2017

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The BA's virtual events are not routinely captioned. To request real-time captions for this event, please contact Hannah Weisman at or 617-720-7617 no less than 4 business days prior to the event.