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Screening and Discussion - The Chinese Exclusion Act (2017) *, Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu
Sunday, March 12th, 2017
1:00 p.m. - Warner Bros. Theater
On May 6th, 1882 – on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American history – President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation, called the Chinese Exclusion Act. Unlike any other law in American history before or since – except for subsequent measures extending it for well more than half a century – the act uniquely singled out by name a single race and nationality for special treatment: making it illegal for Chinese laborers to enter America on pain of imprisonment; for Chinese nationals to become citizens of the United States; and for Chinese immigrants already here to leave the country and re-enter it.
Repealed after 61 years in 1943, but still de facto in effect as late as 1968, this landmark piece of legislation – and the dramatic social, political and economic circumstances behind its enactment, implementation and eventual repeal – forms a remarkable lens through which to explore key aspects of American culture, society and evolving national identity – at a critical phase in U.S. history, as America grew from a fledgling republic to a global superpower.
A deeply American story – about immigration and national identity, civil rights and human justice; about how we define who can be an American, and what being an American means – the film will examine the economic, cultural, social, legal, racial and political dimensions of the law; the forces and events that gave rise to it; and the effect it has had, and continues to have, on American culture and identity.
Ric Burns, Documentary Filmmaker and Writer
Fath Davis Rufflins, Curator, National Museum of American History
Martin Gold, Attorney