Volume 3

Reconstruction and Racial Nativism: Chinese Immigrants and the Debates on the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments and Civil Rights Laws

by John Hayakawa Torok

The Reconstruction amendments and civil rights law historically have been viewed in the context of African American emancipation, naturalization, and enfranchisement. However, Chinese immigrantsí presence and the racial nativism they engendered in the white polity influenced the debates surrounding that legislation and the attendant Supreme Court decisions. The author shows that the ubiquitous perception of Asian Americans as intrinsically foreign and unassimilable, and their perceived threat to American institutions and society informed the Congressional debates on the Reconstruction amendments and the subsequent Supreme Court decisions. His exploration of the anti-Chinese rhetoric during the debates reveals that the deliberate language of the Reconstruction amendments and civil rights law were directly influenced by these fears. He concludes by examining the current resurgence of racial nativism in the context of these historical events.

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June 2011

Volume 18

Volume 18 was produced during the 2010-2011 school year.


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