ABZ and APT redux

I’ve posted about the Asiatic Barred Zone and Asia-Pacific Triangle recently. I’ve also been looking into ways to display them interactively. After a bit of digging, I learned about KML (Keyhole Markup Language), an extension of XML for geographic annotation and visualization that has become the standard for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). I put together a small KML file to display both the ABZ and the APT. I’ve embedded a map view below using the file that allows you to view and interact with it using Google Maps. The file can also be downloaded and used independently with Google Earth.


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Unfortunately, Google Maps/Earth only displays contemporary political boundaries in its standard view. I’m looking into finding or develop an overlay that displays political boundaries in the region from 1917–1965. If anyone knows of one or would like to assist, please contact me by e-mail.

The “Asiatic Barred Zone”

As I’ve occasionally posted, I’m researching the “Asiatic Barred Zone” created by Congress in 1917 for an article and book project on race, geography, and territoriality. Recently I’ve been going over the Congressional Record and other government documents to retrace the specific details of its origin and formulation and found some interesting material.

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yet more on “chink”

In a previous post, I wrote about my searches on Google’s ngram viewer on the relative historical use of the terms “chink” and “Chink.” Ngram viewer’s dataset only goes to 2008/9, but another Google web tool, trends, tracks the text of web searches (at Google, obviously) since 2004 – yes, trends is a text search of text searches, so for those folks who love self-referentiality, it is in effect a meta-search engine. Since they draw on different data, actual print usage versus web search text, the two tools aren’t directly comparable. Nevertheless, a quick check on Google trends for the term “chink” was interesting.

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more on “chink”

[Classes ended yesterday so I’m in the process of updating and publishing posts I wrote this fall.]

In May, in the aftermath of the controversy over the use of the phrase “chink in the armor” as a ESPN headline for an article about Jeremy Lin, I wrote a post about the term “chink” and its historical use and origin. This fall I’ve been thinking about the digital humanities and data visualization for my courses and I remembered Google’s ngram viewer. It’s an online tool that draws on the digitalization of books and other print materials that are the basis for Google Books. It allows you to can chart the frequency with which a word (or words) occurs in that database. Because the database includes historical works, in effect the ngram viewer charts the historical use of words in print. I decided to use it to check the arguments I made in my previous post.

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segregation’s space: Lakeshore revisited

I posted this summer about Lakeshore Drive’s commemoration of Chicago’s 1919 race riot. This fall, preparing to lecture about the events of the riot for one of my courses, I read a new book, Red Summer, about the several race riots in the United States in 1919 whose broader context inform the Chicago riot.

Following its detailed narrative account, I realized that I had made a mistaken assumption about the geography of the beach’s, as opposed to Chicago’s, segregation. Historically the city’s predominantly African American communities have developed south of its original urban and commercial center. The association is strong enough that the expression “South Side” is sometimes used  synonymously with what University of Chicago sociologists called the “Black Belt.”

In imagining the events on the beach on July 27, 1919, I had always thought the line marking its segregation followed the same north-south distinction. Accounts I had read recounted a group of African American teenagers unwittingly crossing an extension of Chicago’s color line into Lake Michigan’s waters without specifying direction. Generalizing the city’s racial geography to the specific incident, I assumed they swam north from the south. Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer’s author, makes clear instead that they went south from the north.

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Lakeshore memorial

For several summers while taking bike rides along the Chicago lakeshore, I regularly passed a construction zone just south of McCormick Center. Once a few summers ago, stopping near the zone, I noticed a rock along the path with what appeared to be a plaque on it. Taking a closer look, I saw that the plaque was the product of a 2009 high school project marking the spot where the 1919 Chicago race riot, one of the bloodiest and largest race riots in American history, had begun. The rock and plaque, while nice, didn’t seem to do justice to the significance of the event and left me reflecting on how we commemorate sites of historical violence.

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Washington meridian(s)

I’ve been doing background research for my new project on geography and Asian American history, which I’m tentatively calling Barred Zones after the “Asiatic Barred Zone” established in 1917. Part of the article/chapter I’m writing involves systems of longitude and latitude—which fascinates my inner geek. While most people associate these systems with geography and think of them as, in a sense, “natural” because they locate places on the Earth, they are actually “social,” produced by people and institutions within specific historical contexts and circumstances, including politics, local, regional, national and international. A nice example demonstrating this point is the Washington meridian and its use in defining state and territorial borders within the United States in the late 19th century.

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proposed 1920 Asian amendment

Reviewing hearings before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization from 1920, I was surprised—although not terribly so—to read that Senator James Phelan of California had introduced to Congress a revision of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The issue was that American-born Asians, specifically children of Japanese immigrants, had access to citizenship.

“No American should be so credulous as to believe that any of the ‘get’ of Japanese picture brides will ever be Americanized,” a lengthy report attached to the proceedings declared. “Yet because of their birth upon our soil they are automatically endowed with the highest civic privilege that can be given man—the vote of a freeman. Because of his birth he becomes a unit of government in any State of the Union, yet remains just what nature made him—an oriental, without one attribute of American citizenship.”

Senator Phelan’s proposal to “cure the evil” of double allegiance and raise the “standard of American citizenship” was to change the first line of Section One, defining citizenship, of the 14th Amendment. His revision amended the original “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside” to the more complicated and cumbersome “All persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof whose parents are white persons, Africans, American Indians, or their descendants, and all persons naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside.” Stipulating what races were eligible for citizenship, the revision also excluded by implication, those who were not, which the House Committee hearings made clear were Japanese and more generally Asians. While the proposed revision never passed, the sentiments it expressed extended, even as Phelan’s term did not, to the 1921 and 1924 Immigration Acts that declared Japanese and other Asian immigrants “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” Significantly, however, they did not preclude native-born Asians, or others, from citizenship and its claim to civil rights and equal protection under the law.