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Author Jean Pfaelzer to Present Genevieve Ching-wen Lee '96 Memorial Lecture at Swarthmore College

Author Jean Pfaelzer to Present
Genevieve Ching-wen Lee '96
Memorial Lecture at Swarthmore College

by Anita Pace

Jean Pfaelzer, author of DRIVEN OUT: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans and professor of English, East Asian studies, and women's studies at the University of Delaware will present the 2009 Genevieve Ching-wen Lee '96 Memorial Lecture in Asian-American Studies at Swarthmore College on Tues., Mar. 17, 4:30 p.m. in the Science Center 101. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In DRIVEN OUT: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans (Random House 2007) Pfaelzer reveals the unspoken history of one of this country's darkest episodes: a firestorm of ethnic cleansing that erupted in the forced expulsion of over 200 Chinese communities and thousands of Chinese forced from their homes in the 19th century American West.

Pfaelzer examines how, filled with resentment over the collapse of the California gold rush and the economic depression that followed, communities from Wyoming to California and through the Washington Territory, launched a series of violent attacks against Chinese immigrants: rioting in local Chinatowns, levying unfair taxes against Chinese workers, and forcing Chinese women who had fled to rural towns back into sexual slavery in San Francisco. By 1885, white citizens—mayors, judges, and vigilantes—throughout the Pacific Northwest rounded up thousands of Chinese immigrants at gunpoint, marched them out of town and burned their homes to the ground. The entire local population of over 300 Chinese was stripped of their belongings, loaded onto steamboats in Humboldt Bay, and shipped to San Francisco. In Tacoma, with no notice, the entire Chinese community was marched nine miles in the rain and abandoned at a railroad crossing in the woods as Chinatown burned.

DRIVEN OUT is not just a story of injustice and victimization; it tells the story of an immigrant community that resisted racial prejudice by becoming politically engaged with their new home.

Jean Pfaelzer is the author of four books and more than thirty articles in the areas of nineteenth-century American history, American studies, American literature, feminist theory, utopian fiction, and cultural theory. She was the executive director of the National Labor Law Center of the National Lawyers Guild, and worked as a senior legislative analyst to Hon. Frank McCloskey on immigration, labor, and women's legislation. She was appointed to the Washington, D.C., Commission for Women and was a consultant for the Coal Employment Project, the organization of women coal miners.

The Genevieve Ching-wen Lee '96 Memorial Lecture was established in 1996 by her family to promote awareness of and research on Asian American issues. Each year the College welcomes to campus a leading scholar in the field.