Historians Suellen Cheng and Dr. Munson A. Kwok discuss the resilience, persistence, and even inventiveness of Chinese-Americans in joining Southwestern and American society. The Chinese reached New Mexico by the 1880’s, laying the rail of the ATSF and following it to settle during the harsh era initiated by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. These pioneers endured not only common economic survival challenges but also social and political ostracization and responded by launching a civil rights movement, including establishing the Chinese American Citizens Alliance.
Historian Suellen Cheng was the Museum Director at City of Los Angeles El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument prior to her retirement. Over three decades, she has devoted time developing The Chinese American Museum in fulfilling its mission to serve and share the rich history, heritage, and culture of the Chinese Americans in the United States. She enjoys working as community volunteer and has served on many organizations including the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles City Historical Society, Las Angelitas del Pueblo, Southwest Oral History Association, 1882 Foundation, and currently serves as the National Historian of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance.
Dr. Munson A. Kwok has volunteered in the Chinese American community for over 40 years, besides the 45 years spent in space technology and high energy laser research. He has also served on over 15 nonprofit boards and key committees. Munson has worked in many history programs including the Chinese American Museum, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, and Asian Pacific Islanders in Historic Preservation. Previously, he served as the National President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, an important civil and immigrant rights organization, and remains on its National Board. Currently he is documenting “unknown” California Chinese historical sites and composing the “prequel” to the history of the Alliance.