My Artist Date continued as I played tourist in Downtown L.A.’s Chinatown. It was Sunday, so I was happy to see an “Open” sign at the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. I learned a lot and met a cool guy named Ben who gave me a history lesson.

Historical Significance

Since the 1850s, Chinese Americans have contributed to the historical development of Southern California’s life and culture.

The Chinese Historical Society of Southern
California (CHSSC) was organized November 1, 1975 and incorporated in 1976. The CHSSC was established to discover and recognize Chinese pioneers and their history. They strive to increase awareness of Chinese American heritage through public programs, education and research.

The organization stays relevant by offering a variety of free educational monthly activities, working with colleges, universities, historical societies and local community groups.

Meeting a War Veteran

 

Ben Fong was born in Sacramento in 1921 and moved with his family to the East Adams District a decade later. After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Ben decided to join the United States Marine Corps. Unfortunately, he was refused due to the color of the skin. Ben was later drafted in the Army and became a Military Intelligence expert.

For Fong, as well as many other Chinese Americans, the war was an opportunity to affirm the importance of the Chinese into American history.

Timeline

Ben enjoys visiting  the newly opened Chinatown Public Library, which hosts one of the largest collections of Chines books in the country. He shared the following timeline with me, showing how the Chinese came over on Spanish ships back when L.A. was discovered.

1769
Spanish explorers under Gaspar de Portola enter the area that is now Los Angeles.

1781
El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles is founded by Felipe Neve.

1848
The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill starts the California gold rush. This brings many people from all over the world, including Chinese.

1850
The first California U.S. Census taken shows two Chinese house servants listed as residents of Los Angeles: Ah Fou and Ah Luce.

1854
California Supreme Court includes Chinese among racial classes prohibited from testifying against whites.

1859
Arrival of first Chinese woman to the United States. Chinese fishermen become established off Catalina Island.

Is there a Chinatown where you live?

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