Chinese Pioneers: Power and Politics in Exclusion Era Photographs presents a visual history of the social, political, and judicial disenfranchisement of Chinese Californians — as well as moments of Chinese agency and resilience — in the decades before and after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The exhibition is drawn exclusively from the California Historical Society’s collections and consists of 11 free-standing pop-up banners.
Significant numbers of Chinese people began to arrive in California during the Gold Rush, coinciding with growing national debates about inclusion and assimilation. The 1866 Civil Rights Bill and the Fourteenth Amendment extended the rights and privileges of citizenship to African Americans and some Native Americans, but the “Chinese question” persisted.
Anti-Chinese sentiment, fueled by fears that Chinese laborers were taking jobs away from white men, led to protests, violence, and vigilante expulsions up and down the West Coast. The 1882 Exclusion Act and the more stringent 1888 Scott Act banned Chinese laborers from immigrating; prohibited Chinese people from becoming citizens; and tightened restrictions on previous residents reentering the country.
In the United States during the Exclusion Era years, depictions of Chinese people ranged from deeply derogatory to highly exoticized. The Chinese Pioneers exhibition examines the visual record of how mainstream culture influenced, aligned with, and/or diverged from politics and state actions. Photography played a potent role in both Chinese people’s interactions with the dominant culture and in the government’s fledgling systems of registration, identification, and surveillance.
- Sinophobia and Exclusion
- Studio vs. Street Photography
- Photography and the Surveillance State
- Life Goes On
Chinese Pioneers: Power and Politics in Exclusion Era Photographs was organized by the California Historical Society and tours through Exhibit Envoy thanks to the generosity of the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation.
- Rental Fee:
- $1,000 + shipping via FedEx for an 8-week booking
- ~36 linear feet; 11 freestanding banners @ 33” w x 80” h each
- English, Spanish (via a binder), Mandarin or Cantonese (TBD, via a binder)
- 11 free-standing, retractable, pop-up banners
- Spanish and Chinese translated text in binders
- Exhibition press kit with digital publicity images and template press release
Schedule and Availability
|December 11, 2022 – February 5, 2023||Sutter County Museum, Yuba City, CA|
|February 19, 2023 – April 16, 2023||Locke Foundation, Locke, CA|
|April 30, 2023 – June 25, 2023||Imperial Valley Desert Museum, Ocotillo, CA|
|July 9, 2023 – September 3, 2023||Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, San Francisco, CA|
|September 17, 2023 – November 12, 2023||San Lorenzo Valley Museum, Boulder Creek, CA|
|November 26, 2023 – January 21, 2024||Delta Educational Cultural Society, Asian American Heritage Park, Isleton, CA|
|February 4, 2024 – March 31, 2024||Linda Vista Library, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, CA|
|April 14, 2024 – June 9, 2024||Museums of Lake County, Lakeport, CA|
|June 23, 2024 – August 18, 2024||AVAILABLE|
|September 1, 2024 – October 27, 2024||AVAILABLE|
|November 10, 2024 – January 5, 2025||AVAILABLE|