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Y. C. Hong

Dec 21, 2015

chinese-typewriter_600Chinese men had already helped build the California Central Railroad, the RR from Sacrament to Marysville, and the San Jose Railway.

The Honorable John T. Doolittle of California addressed his fellow representatives in Washington D. C. in April 1999, to honor the Chinese-American community.

Regarding the building of a connecting railroad line that runs for 1,907 miles beginning in San Francisco and connecting with the already existing eastern U. S. rail network, built between 1863 and 1869, and creating the First Intercontinental Railroad, Doolittle stated in his written remarks, Chinese laborers were considered too small—”standing at 58 inches, weighing about 120 pounds”—”to complete such a momentous task.”

Make Masons out of Chinamen? Did they not build the Chinese wall, the biggest piece of masonry in the world?
—Charles Crocker of Central Pacific, Congressional Testimony

In 1868, the number of Chinese men who labored “rose to a high of 12,000… comprising at least 80% of the Central Pacific workforce” (PBS.org).

 

Chinese workers in California, 1880; photo source, The Second Promise

Chinese workers in California, 1880; photo source, The Second Promise

 

Chinese man working on the transcontinental railroad; photo found at DOL.gov, source Northeaster Nevada Historical Society and Museum

Chinese man working on the transcontinental railroad; photo found at DOL.gov, source Northeaster Nevada Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo found at Pressian.com

Photo found at Pressian.com

 

Chinese Miners at the head of the Auburn Ravine, ca. 1852. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Chinese Miners at the head of the Auburn Ravine, ca. 1852. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

A mere sixteen years later, America would pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, “the first major law restricting immigration to the United States.”

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major law restricting immigration to the United States. It was enacted in response to economic fears, especially on the West Coast, where native-born Americans attributed unemployment and declining wages to Chinese workers whom they also viewed as racially inferior. The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law on May 6, 1882, by President Chester A. Arthur, effectively halted Chinese immigration for ten years and prohibited Chinese from becoming US citizens. Through the Geary Act of 1892, the law was extended for another ten years before becoming permanent in 1902.

It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated previous national-origins policy, that large-scale Chinese immigration to the United States was allowed to begin again after a hiatus of over 80 years. (Harvard.edu)

 

Business card/flyer, circa 1928. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Business card/flyer, circa 1928. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

 

You Chung (Y. C.) Hong was born in 1898 in San Francisco. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from USC, and “he passed the bar on March 26, 1923, not yet having completed law school, making him the first Chinese American in California to practice law in the state.”¹

Hong worked tirelessly to try to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act and testified before the U.S. Senate against discriminatory immigration laws before the age of 30. In 1933, Hong became the first Chinese American to be admitted to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. (AsianWeek.com)

The Huntington Library presents the exhibit “Y. C. Hong,” which runs through March 2016. Culled from The Huntington’s You Chong Hung Family Papers, guests may peruse 75 different items, from historical documents, case files, and ledgers to correspondence, manuscripts, film, architectural drawings, and photos.

The exhibition will also provide visitors with insight into the early history of the Chinese experience in California, in part through rare photographs from the Library’s holdings of Chinese miners during the California Gold Rush and laborers on the transcontinental railroad.

(Hong’s) extensive civil and political engagement included his tenure as president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, and he met with political figures such as Ronald Reagan, when Reagan was governor of California, and Soong May-ling, the wife of Chiang Kai-Shek, president of the Republic of China.

 

Y.C. Hong and Governor Ronald Reagan, photograph, late 1960s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Y.C. Hong and Governor Ronald Reagan, photograph, late 1960s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

In addition, Hong was one of the founding members of New Chinatown in Los Angeles, which he helped build after Old Chinatown was razed to make way for Union Station.

“During Hong’s lifetime, he facilitated and worked on at least 7,000 immigration cases,” said Li Wei Yang, curator of Western American History at The Huntington and curator of the exhibition. “The exhibition will give visitors a rare and comprehensive view of the life and career of a legendary lawyer who advocated relentlessly on behalf of Chinese Americans striving to achieve the American dream.” (Huntington.org)

 

Christmas portrait of the Hong Family, photograph, ca. 1960s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Christmas portrait of the Hong Family, photograph, ca. 1960s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

Y. C. Hong
Exhibit through March 22, 2016
The Huntington, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino
Times vary; check details here
Admission: free to $25
For complete details, visit Huntington.org
Or call 1.626.405.2100

 

Y.C. Hong in New Chinatown, photograph, 1950s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Y.C. Hong in New Chinatown, photograph, 1950s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 

 

~~~

 

 

¹ “Chinese American Hero: You Chung Hong,” April 24, 2009, AsianWeek.

Photo, top right: Improved Shu Zhendong-style Chinese typewriter 改良舒式華文打字機, ca. 1935. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

 




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