Chinese Chicago: Race, Transnational Migration, and Community since 1870

Chinese Chicago: Race, Transnational Migration, and Community since 1870

Chinese Chicago: Race, Transnational Migration, and Community since 1870

Chinese Chicago: Race, Transnational Migration, and Community since 1870


Numerous studies have documented the transnational experiences and local activities of Chinese immigrants in California and New York in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Less is known about the vibrant Chinese American community that developed at the same time in Chicago. In this sweeping account, Huping Ling offers the first comprehensive history of Chinese in Chicago, beginning with the arrival of the pioneering Moy brothers in the 1870s and continuing to the present.

Ling focuses on how race, transnational migration, and community have defined Chinese in Chicago. Drawing upon archival documents in English and Chinese, she charts how Chinese made a place for themselves among the multiethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, cultivating friendships with local authorities and consciously avoiding racial conflicts. Ling takes readers through the decades, exploring evolving family structures and relationships, the development of community organizations, and the operation of transnational businesses. She pays particular attention to the influential role of Chinese in Chicago's academic and intellectual communities and to the complex and conflicting relationships among today's more dispersed Chinese Americans in Chicago.


And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is
One town that won’t let you down
It’s my kind of town

—Lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by Jimmy van Heusen

Chicago is a city of hope and promise. Situated in the heartland of America, favored with land, water, rail, and air transportation advantages, and populated by vibrant multiethnic communities, it attracts thousands of people from all across the country who seek to realize their dreams. Barack Obama, a graduate of Columbia University in New York, came to Chicago in the summer of 1985 and worked as a community organizer on the far South Side of the city, thus starting his political journey to the presidency. His historic victory in the 2008 presidential election was a spectacular manifestation of the fulfillment of the American dream through the promise of Chicago.

The vast opportunities presented by Chicago were evident to newcomers even more than a century ago. the city has attracted hundreds of thousands of immigrants from around the world; since the mid-nineteenth century, Canadians, Germans, English, Irish, Scottish, Swedish, Norwegians, Poles, and Italians have poured into the city over time, making it a truly multiethnic community. For the Chinese who first arrived in the 1870s, Chicago offered a growing and attractive economic landscape. Here the Chinese initially established a small but lively community in the downtown Loop area (the downtown business district coinciding with the old cable car service area). Chinese grocery stores, laundries, restaurants, and community asso-

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