Over 50 people packed the meeting room at the Sanborn House, Winchester Historical society, on the evening of March 27, 2018 to hear a fascinating presentation on the history and impact of Boston’s Chinatown by Tunney Lee, Professor Emeritus and former Head of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, and a leader of the Chinatown Atlas project, which is a collaborative effort documenting and exploring Chinatown’s growth and change through time as told by personal stories, photos, maps, and interactive features (chinatownatlas.org).
This program, co-sponsored by the Winchester Historical Society and the Network, also included important information about the oppression and terrible violence experienced by the first waves of Chinese immigrants in the United States, including attempts at ethnic cleansing in the latter half of the 19th century.
This oppression is what resulted in Chinese communities being established in the east. Boston’s Chinatown is thriving now, and hopefully will retain its place as a major cultural and social service center for the region’s Asian American population, even as development pressures exist.
Dr. Lee highlighted several factors that have contributed to the persistence, survival and growth of Boston’s Chinatown: the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, which added Chinese persons to the categories of individuals eligible to become naturalized citizens; changes in the majority’s view of Chinese people with the realization that there were a large number of Chinese GI’s fighting in WWII; the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which came out of the Civil Rights movement; and, the ongoing structures that provide support and create strong community bonds, such as the Family Associations and the Asian American Civic Association.
The Network thanks Hilda Wong-Doo and the Historical Society for arranging for this very valuable awareness-raising program.