The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics

TUE, OCT 19, 2021 (58:23)

American Ancestors/NEHGS and Boston Public Library in partnership with the Boston Book Festival present author and Columbia University Professor Mae Ngai and her latest work. “The Chinese Question” looks at how the Chinese diaspora, particularly migration to the world’s goldfields, reshaped the nineteenth-century world.

In roughly five decades, between 1848 and 1899, more gold was removed from the earth than had been mined in the 3,000 preceding years, bringing untold wealth to individuals and nations. But friction between Chinese and white settlers on the goldfields of California, Australia, and South Africa catalyzed a global battle over “the Chinese Question”: would the United States and the British Empire outlaw Chinese immigration? Join us for a discussion of these definitive cultural and political movements which impact us to this day, featuring two remarkable authors and experts on the topics of Chinese-American history and immigration.

Mae Ngai is Lung Family Professor Asian American Studies and a professor of history at Columbia University. Professor Ngai will be joined by Jia Lynn Yang, author of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965, and national editor at The New York Times. She was previously deputy national security editor at The Washington Post, where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team.

+ BIO: Yang Jia Lynn

Jia Lynn Yang is national editor at The New York Times. Before joining The Times in 2017, she was deputy national security editor at The Washington Post, where she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Trump and Russia. Before becoming an editor, Jia Lynn wrote about business and economics at the Post and at Fortune magazine for over a decade.

Jia Lynn’s family immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in the 1970s and was able to stay in the country thanks to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide is her effort to understand the people who fought to give her family a place in America.

+ BIO: Mae Ngai

Mae M. Ngai is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in questions of immigration, citizenship, and nationalism. She is the author of the “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America” (2004) and “The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America” (2010). Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation and The Boston Review. Before becoming a historian she was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education.

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