April 11, 2021, 12:00:00 AM
Wong Chin Foo: The First Chinese American
Presenter / Panelists
Scott Seligman, Writer, historian, genealogist, retired corporate executive
Earl Y. Lin, Washington, DC-based civil rights legal professional, and Mrs. Lin’s grandson
America’s civil rights movements have all had their Martin Luther Kings, their César Chávezes and their Gloria Steinems. But to whom can Chinese Americans point? More than 70 years before Dr. King dreamed of an America that judged people according to the “content of their character,” Wong Chin Foo (王清福, 1847-1898) defied those who wished to exclude Chinese by declaring that only “character and fitness should be the requirement of all who are desirous of becoming citizens of the American Republic.” His story is a forgotten chapter in the struggle for equal rights for all in America.
Wong’s biographer, Scott D. Seligman, who studied Chinese at Middlebury in the summer of 1973 under Mrs. Lin’s tutelage, will discuss Wong’s remarkable life and achievements, which include coining and defining the term “Chinese American," founding America's first association of Chinese voters and New York’s first Chinese newspaper, besting the standard bearer of the “Chinese Must Go” movement in a public debate, and testifying before Congress – the first Chinese ever to do so – in support of Chinese citizenship rights.
Please join us for this timely talk, as those of us in the United States witness a rise in anti-Asian violence, a result of terms like "kung flu" and blame on China for the pandemic having amplified racial stereotypes and exacerbated longstanding anti-Chinese and anti-Asian attitudes in the US.
Registration for the talk is by email invitation only, and at this time participation is limited to members of our Tiger Community, including Helen Lin's students, colleagues, family, and invited guests. We welcome friends and colleagues of Tiger Community members to join us -- please have them send us their contact information, so we can send them an invitation. Email:
If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive invitations and updates regarding our activities and events, please subscribe via the Contact Us tab – Stay In Touch button on this website.