Asian Texans
Our Histories and Our Lives

A Book Proposal

Irwin Tang
1010 Holt Street
College Station, Texas 77840


No state more than Texas takes pride in its heritage.

Asian Texans - the Asian Americans of Texas - have helped to make Texas what it is today. Through their collective and individual actions, Asian Texans have produced some of the most fascinating and historically relevant dramas of the great mural of Texas history.

Chinese Texans of the nineteenth century helped to build Texas railroads, including the Houston & Texas Central and Southern Pacific. These men helped establish early Chinese communities in the Brazos Valley and El Paso. The El Paso Chinatown was considered "The Chinese Mecca" of the Southwest.

The Galveston Chinese established perhaps the first major Chinatown in Texas, and served their city valiantly during the Galveston Storm of 1900.

Throughout the period of Asian exclusion, which began with Chinese exclusion in 1882, Chinese, Japanese, and Indians immigrated to and returned home to the United States through the nation of Mexico. Because entrance was illegal for Asians, an Asian American underground railroad ran from Mexico throughout the United States. The most important stop on this railroad was El Paso, Texas.

Japanese Texans helped to make rice a viable industry in east Texas in the early twentieth century. Among those establishing rice colonies in East Texas was, at one point, the father of Japanese socialism, Sen Katayama. In World War II, Japanese Texans and Japanese Americans of the 442nd Regiment rescued the Texas "Lost Battalion" from Nazi onslaught, changing the way in which Americans and Texans saw Japanese Americans.

Chinese Mexicans, persecuted in Mexico, risked their lives to aid General John J. Pershing and the U.S. military in their battles with Mexican revolutionaries. Five hundred of these Chinese Mexicans became the first Americans given what is now known as political asylum. These "Pershing Chinese" helped establish the modern San Antonio Chinese American community.

In the 1970's and 1980's, Vietnamese Texans stood tall against the guns of racists in the struggle to open Texas coasts to people of all national origins for commercial fishing and shrimping. Their struggle represents one of the most important civil rights struggles fought on Texas territory.

Korean Texans have in small military towns established major Korean American communities. And despite fallout from nationwide anti-Korean movements of the 1980's and 1990's, Korean Texans have prospered. Korean Dallasite neurologist, Dr. Suzanne Ahn, was a tireless activist for Asian Americans, women, and the environment.

Texas is home to one of the nation's largest South Asian American populations. One great figure among this population is Houstonian Kalpana Chawla, the Indian Texan engineer who perished in the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Born in India, Chawla earned her M.S. in aerospace engineering from UT Austin. She joined NASA in 1995 and became the first Indian American woman in outer space when she flew on a 1997 Space Shuttle mission.

Tibetan Texans have found religious refuge in the state of Texas after being persecuted by the Chinese government in Tibet.

Texans of South Asian, Southeast Asian, and East Asian descent help form the foundations of the high-tech, medical, retail and academic industries of Texas. Asian Texans have made an impact on the state's political profile, serving as city council members, state legislators, and mayor.

Asia-towns and Chinatowns have changed the urban landscapes of Texas. Houston's Asian American community represents one of the city's greatest assets and one of the nation's most prominent communities of color.

Many Asian Texans have overcome almost fantastical obstacles simply to set foot on Texas soil. Asian Texans have broken through discrimination, violence, and poverty to establish thriving communities and to integrate into Texan society. And yet the accomplishments and contributions and the histories of Asian Texans have scarcely been preserved, chronicled or taught.

Asian Texans: Our Histories and Our Lives will ameliorate these oversights of Texas history.

Asian Texans will be pan-ethnic and temporally complete. All Asian and Pacific nationalities will be represented in the book, including East Asians, South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Our story begins in 1870 and progresses into the new millenium.

The first six chapters will concentrate on Chinese and Japanese Texan communities, as those were the major Asian ethnic groups of Texas before the abolition of Asian Exclusion in 1943.

Asian Texans will be organized primarily by historical period, geography, and ethnicity, and it will look at the history from various perspectives. The perspective on any given page may incorporate Asian American history, Texas history, immigrant history, world history, industrial history, and American sociology and politics.

Perhaps the most important perspectives are those of Asian Texans themselves. Short biographies of important or interesting Asian Texans will be embedded within the larger historical narratives.

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© 2003 Irwin Tang. For additional information about this project, contact Irwin Tang at Site created by