In social studies we are currently doing a mini-unit on the immigration of Chinese to the Americas. We now are learning about Angel Island, the much stricter West Coast version of Ellis Island. It opened in 1910 and processed many immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe; however it also served as a detention center for many Chinese immigrants being questioned as a result of Chinese Exclusion laws passed in the late 1800s. There are a number of oral histories that have been collected from people who survived this ordeal.
Additionally, we will be exploring the poetry of Angel Island. While Chinese immigrants were detained at Angel Island for days, months, and even years, they carved poetry into the walls. These poems might have been lost were it not for a few park rangers who thought they were too important to destroy. There are more than one hundred of them recorded, conveying emotions ranging from hopeful to sad to angry.
What we are taking away is that even though many people had dreams of landing on Gum Saan or “Gold Mountain” which is what some Chinese immigrants called America, our country was not always so welcoming. This was the first time immigrants were restricted by their nationality, race, and class, but the gatekeeping policies developed to exclude the Chinese would soon spread to other immigrant groups as well.
Here are some resources I found helpful. :