Most immigrants, however, face challenges of adapting to a new dominant language and culture. Amid the struggles of adaptation, history can be an inspiration. Learning more about how others have persevered in the past can help today’s immigrants keep moving forward.
A good example of this is the current exhibit at the National Archives in Washington to which Minnesota resident Erika Lee has contributed.
Lee, who is of Chinese descent, is the new director of the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center. She has also co-authored a book called “Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America.”
For the National Archives exhibit, she drew on research she did on her family for a graduate school thesis on the Exclusion Era. This was a period from the 1880s to the 1940s when Chinese immigration to the U.S. was severely restricted by Congress.
After searching in many different libraries, Lee was able to find a black-and-white photograph of her grandparents from 1926. The photo was taken in Guangzhou, China.
Later, her grandfather traveled to the United States by steamship and set up a laundry business. A year later, his grandmother joined him and authorities stamped the immigration file number on the wedding photograph.
The young couple struggle to overcome prejudice at a time when the few Chinese who did get through immigration were typically detained by U.S. authorities for long periods before being released. But they had made it to America.
Source: “Immigration, The Gold Mountain And A Wedding Photo,” National Public Radio,” Tasnim Shamma, 7-21-12
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