In trying to find an exhibit that detailed Asian immigration to the United States, I came across the Chinese Historical Society of America’s online initiative called “Civil Rights Suite.” As we had previously talked about African American civil rights, the women’s liberation movement, Latino rights, and the Red Power movement, I thought highlighting a site about Chinese-American activism would be a nice bookend to our semester-long discussion.
The Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) was founded in 1963 and claims to be the “oldest and largest organization in the country dedicated to the documentation, study, and presentation of Chinese American history.”  Located in San Francisco, CHSA has a 10,000 square foot gallery space, a Learning Center, and a performance/reception space. Their mission statement promises to preserve this history “through exhibitions, publications, and educational, public programming.” Through these efforts, “CHSA promotes the contributions and legacy of Chinese America.” Their educational programs and exhibits reflect their dedication to preserving Chinese heritage. Children can take classes in traditional Chinese storytelling while adults can talk about contemporary Chinese literature in group book clubs. CHSA has a gallery space within their building that displays exhibits on topics such as the architecture of San Francisco’s Chinatown and the immigration of Chinese to America.
Their only online exhibit, “Civil Rights Suite: Exploring the History of the Chinese American Fight for Equality,” explores the history, struggles, and victories of Chinese Americans fighting for their civil rights. The gallery is broken up into three acts—“The Chinese of California,” “Remembering 1882,” and “Our American Citizenship.” The last segment focuses on the Chinese American Citizens Alliance’s (CACA) origins and its efforts to secure civil liberties. The exhibit chronicles important moments in Chinese-American struggles to secure civil rights, picking up after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and continuing to the 1960s. Similar to the author Ha Jin in his collection of short stories, A Good Fall, the site does not shy away from the complexities of getting by in America. While the site tends to highlight success stories like Jin’s Rusheng in “An English Professor,” there are certainly glimpses of the inter-generational issues found within “Children as Enemies,” a story that describes…
Within “Our American Citizenship,” the issue of Chinese immigration and naturalization is broken down into semi-chronological thematic units. In fact, the main purpose of this part of the site is to address “current debates surrounding civil liberties, immigration, and changing demographics” within not only the country, but also within Chinese communities. From “The Savage Exclusion” to “The Next Generation,” issues of Chinese-American discrimination are coupled with acts of resistance. To enrich the visitor’s experience, the site uses images of newspaper articles, political cartoons, immigration certificates, photographs, and even material culture. In the interest of transparency, there is even a “works consulted” section where you can see were CHSA has pulled their information.
Although a useful site, it is not without its problems. First, it is important to realize that as a site with an activist angle, it does not offer an entirely balanced perspective. Secondly, although the site is called the Chinese Historical Society of America, it only deals with issues surrounding California’s Chinese Americans. Third, the site makes some broad and inconclusive claims regarding African-American activism. For instance, there is a section titled “Same Struggles, Same Paths” that introduces the idea that minority groups shared similar hardships. It does so by making the assertion that the African American struggle and the Chinese-American struggle were one in the same.
Overall, however, I do think the site offers a good introduction to the issue of Chinese immigration and Chinese Americans’ fights for equality.
 “About,” Chinese Historical Society of America, http://www.chsa.org/about_chsa/.
 Ha Jin, A Good Fall: Stories (Pantheon, 2009).
 “MICROSITE: To Enjoy and Defend Our American Citizenship, Civil Rights Suite, Our American Citizenship,” Chinese Historical Society of America, http://www.civilrightssuite.org/OurAmericanCitizenship/index.php/iID/232.