Reading Like a Historian: Chinese Immigration and Exclusion
In this lesson, students analyze primary source documents in an effort to answer the central historical question: What factors contributed to the Chinese Exclusion Act? After a mini-lecture on the Transcontinental Railroad, students read a timeline and formulate hypotheses as to why Chinese were legally excluded from mainstream society in 1882. They then answer guiding questions on 4 documents: 1) an anti-Chinese play, 2) a Thomas Nast cartoon, 3) an anti-Chinese speech, and 4) the autobiography of a Chinese immigrant. For homework, students write a 1-page answer to the central question using evidence from the documents.