♪ ♪ CANDY: I grew up with the American dream.
ERIKA: But all Asian immigrants were denied the right of naturalized citizenship and with the Exclusion Act, the Chinese became the first undocumented immigrants.
CANDY: The American Dream is a lovely dream to have and so people continue to aspire; enduring whatever it is that they've got to do as immigrants.
HELEN: Japanese Americans fought on the side the United States, while the rest of their family was incarcerated.
ERIKA: Legal challenges were so important because they did not have political power.
And as much as tragedy is a part of our heritage here, so is possibility.
MAN: Asian voices are coming out.
ALEX: You've got these young people fighting to make change happen.
ALISA: They had to assert their rights.
NOBUKO: It was like a giant genie coming out of the bottle.
You couldn't put us back in.
THAHN: These were stories about what it meant to be human.
What it meant to be resilient.
VIET: To transform the system into something more just for everyone, that's the hope from which the Asian American movement was born.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: They come from all corners of Asia, from tiny villages and teeming cities.
The first immigrants cross the seas from China and Japan, from Korea, India and the Philippines.
Some flee poverty, war and oppression, others seek opportunity or adventure.
They all dream of new possibilities in America.
Every dreamer has a story.
One is 12 year old orphan, Antero Cabrera, who sets off from the Philippines in 1904 to see the land of riches he's always heard about.
He arrives at the St. Louis World's fair, and what a fantastic sight it is.
Exhibits from over 50 countries dazzle 20 million visitors.
CANDY: St. Louis did itself proud with the fair.
It was a real marvel to behold.
All the technology that was on display.
Pseudo multicultural exhibitions were popular at the time.
The fair was huge.
The United States was telling the world that they had arrived.
They were an imperial power and their biggest exhibit was the Philippines.
Their newly acquired colony.
NARRATOR: It is the age of American imperialism: the U.S. defeats Spain in 1898, and annexes colonies one by one.
Its biggest conquest is in Asia.
After a long and bloody conflict with Filipino nationalists, the U.S. takes the Philippines.
NAYAN: Thousands of Americans go there as school teachers, as military people, as anthropologists to study all the different people in all the different islands of the Philippines.
As McKinley, the president at the time says, you know, "It's to save the little brown brothers."
NARRATOR: In the Philippines, Antero is educated by missionaries who believe their divine mandate is to civilize the native population.
Antero is a star pupil who works as an interpreter and houseboy for anthropologist Albert Jenks.
CANDY: Jenks was tasked with bringing a shopping list of Filipinos to the fair.
The Visayans were the most civilized and then there were kind of grades going down.
Then at the bottom or near the bottom were the Igorots.
Albert Jenks really believed that they were savages.
MIA: I belong to the Bontoc tribe.
We call ourselves the Igorots.
My grandfather Antero, he was a very intelligent little boy.
Jenks trusted him and asked my grandfather to come with him to the United States.
Here was a, quote unquote, "promised land".
NARRATOR: But the promised land is not what Antero expected.
His home at the fair is a replica of an Igorot village, inside a living anthropological exhibit.
CANDY: Anthropology at the time had an evolutionary aspect of it where they believed that there were races that were inherently barbaric and races that were inherently enlightened, and they were arrayed according to skin colors.
It was kind of for Americans to realize how superior they were to the rest of the world.
MIA: A day for my grandfather in the fair would be waking up, of course, to the requirements of the fair managers.
They were asked to perform dances.
They were told to do some dog eating.
These are savages and this is how they look.
This is how they live.
CANDY: The Americans, they just saw them as objects of display in those human zoos.
MIA: The Igorots were not blind.
My grandfather actually had a motive himself, to earn money so that he could bring it back and then make his life better.
NAYAN: So Antero, he's already gotten a taste of what the possibilities are.
Antero continues after the world's fair.
He can make a living, have his expenses paid, see the world, and then develop economic and social status.
He even gets married and he has a daughter that's actually born in the United States.
CANDY: When you think about Antero, he came home and he told stories of his amazing adventures in America and maybe the people that he told those stories to thought, "Oh, we want to go too.
We want to experience that."
I grew up with the American dream.
My mother tells stories about square dancing and learning how to do the boogie and the reality is the people who have made it to America and are now enduring whatever it is that they've got to do as immigrants.
Maintain the fiction with the people at home.
The American dream is a lovely dream to have and so people continue to aspire to the American dream.
NARRATOR: Every dreamer has a story.
Antero goes on to lead a prosperous life, moving back and forth between the US and the Philippines.
And his descendants will plant roots in America.
These Asian immigrants arrive during a time of great upheaval, of reinvention and expansion.
Asians will play a crucial role as a new America is being forged.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ CONNIE: 2019, May 10th, we have this incredible celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
NARRATOR: Connie Young Yu and descendants of Chinese railroad workers are here to honor the men who laid these tracks 150 years ago, and share stories of their astonishing exploits.
This is a milestone in Asian American history ♪ CONNIE: And the home of the brave.
♪♪ ♪ ♪ My great grandfather, Lee Wong Sang came at the age of 19.
He came to the United States in 1866 and first job was on the railroad.
NARRATOR: The Chinese are first lured to America by tales of riches in California.
They join the great Gold Rush of the 1850s.
But many arrive too late and instead they find jobs on the railroad.
They become known as a cheap source of labor, willing to take on back-breaking work.
And so more Chinese are recruited, and they cross the ocean in overcrowded ships.
GORDON: The ships would come in and to the astonishment of observers, they would begin to see these Chinese come up above deck.
Most of the ships were populated by young men, prime of life coming over here to work, take their chances and see what life would bring them, and they of course would have their traditional queue, their so called pigtail, which was required of them by Manchu emperors.
And this was really a novel sight.
Chinese, after they arrive in San Francisco, were sent into the Sierras to work.
NARRATOR: The transcontinental railroad fulfills the nation's grand ambition to expand westward, seizing Native American land along the way.
The new railroad connects the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Irish immigrants lay the track westward, while the Chinese work their way eastward to meet them.
CONNIE: My great grandfather, he learned English and he became a foreman.
He was paid $1 a day and the cost of the food was taken from that dollar and the rest of it would be sent home to his village.
GORDON: The rail Chinese become indispensable for the railroad company.
They become 80 to 90% of the construction crew.
The railroad line could not have been built without the Chinese.
The Chinese railroad workers work through some of the most difficult terrain imaginable.
The Sierra Nevada.
The Chinese dug out 15 tunnels through solid granite.
(dynamite blast) CONNIE: It was all hand tools with blasting powder.
They would run out of the tunnel and after the blast, they'd muck it out and start doing it again.
And can you imagine how dangerous that was?
GORDON: The most dangerous time was wintertime.
The snow avalanches would just come down in monumental force and just sweep away dozens of workers.
Chinese associations send out teams to recover remains of Chinese for repatriation.
20,000 pounds of remains, around 1,200 people, picked up in one sweep to be sent back to China.
NARRATOR: After six brutal years, the two tracks finally come together at Promontory Summit.
On May 10, 1869, the lines are linked with the driving of a ceremonial Golden Spike.
GORDON: The moment is immortalized in one of the most famous photos of the 19th century in the United States.
People believe this photo deliberately omits Chinese.
Despite their accomplishment, their sacrifice, their suffering, they were prohibited from entering the frame.
NARRATOR: With the railroad now complete, the workers stand at a crossroads: Should they return to China, or carve out their future in America?
Thousands decide to stay and take their chances.
CONNIE: My great grandfather, he was able to save money working on the railroad, go back to San Francisco and be a partner in a general store.
NARRATOR: The bustling quarter is the center of life for Chinese immigrants, mostly laborers, young men far from their families.
Chinatown is home.
While the majority of Chinese immigrants are laborers, a lucky few start their own businesses.
One such entrepreneur is Joseph Tape.
His story begins when he arrives from China, alone, at age 14.
He quickly learns English and gets a job driving a milk wagon.
MAE: He was a little unusual because he seemed to have cut his ties to his family in China.
He had ideas that he would have his own business when he got older.
He cut his queue, which was kind of an announcement, he wanted to become an American.
NARRATOR: On one of his milk runs, he meets the girl who will become his wife.
MAE: Mary Tape is an enigma.
She's brought into the United States and put to work as a servant in a brothel and she knows what her future is going to be.
So this little girl ran away to the home of the ladies protection and relief society and she's raised as a white American girl.
Mary, who's effaced all of her Chinese-ness meets this Chinese boy and there's this recognition that they're both Chinese and American.
Joseph and Mary get married and they have an incredible life story together as one of the first Chinese American families.
Joseph does realize his dream ambition to be his own man and he starts his own business in Chinatown.
NARRATOR: Joseph launches a transportation business, shuttling new-comers from the docks to the Chinese quarter.
MAE: The route that he always took was up third street and that was where racists would gather on the bridge and throw rocks and stones at the Chinese entering the country.
NARRATOR: Before the Civil War, America's economy was fueled by the labor of enslaved Africans.
After slavery is outlawed, the country is desperate for new sources of labor.
NAYAN: By 1870, the Chinese were actually such a extraordinarily important part of the workforce of California.
They were the people that were making it happen, from construction to manufacturing to agriculture.
People began to have this idea that the Chinese were a threat to American laborers.
MAE: Chinese were depicted in cartoons as being evil and not Christian.
Their queues seems to have been a particularly offensive to white people.
Chinatown is considered this, kind of, den of iniquity and they become associated with vices like gambling and opium, prostitution.
It was just a terrible time.
It was a terrible time to be Chinese in California.
CONNIE: There was a rise of white labor.
And the 1870s was when the great anti-Chinese movement took place.
And the rallying cry was, "The Chinese must go."
MAE: The gangs would roam through the streets.
They would go to Chinatown and beat people up.
They would attack Chinese laundries, burn them down and all over the West, the Pacific Northwest through Nevada, Southern California, there were riots, lynching's, burnings, massacres really of Chinese.
NARRATOR: In 1882, the sentiment on the streets reaches Washington, DC.
Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, closing the door on all Chinese laborers.
For the first time in the nation's history, a group of people is banned from entering the country solely on the basis of race.
ERIKA: The Exclusion Act bars laborers, but it allows Chinese students, teachers, travelers, merchants, and diplomats to still apply for admission.
So, it then set in motion the requirement of immigration documents that Chinese were required to hold on their person and it establishes both the laws and the mechanisms to arrest and deport those who are found in the country unlawfully.
So in essence, Chinese immigrants became the first illegal immigrants, the first undocumented immigrants.
NARRATOR: The exclusion laws cast a shadow over Chinese immigrants.
They either have to abandon their dream of a life here or find a way to circumvent the law.
Joseph Tape sees an opportunity to expand his business.
MAE: Joseph's work as a transportation agent and a broker or interpreter put him in this position of being, you know, this in between person.
Needed by both sides, but also mistrusted.
For the Tape family.
If you take a step back, you can think about what kind of opportunities were there for Chinese in the late 19th century to become part of the white middle class?
The only way you could really do it was through this brokering position.
And it's the one little crack in the wall of exclusion where there's a need for somebody like this who can stick his foot through the wall.
Joseph and Mary have several children.
Mamie was the first.
Mary tried to enroll her in the Spring Valley School on Union Street.
The principal, Jenny Hurley says, "I'm sorry, we have a policy in the city that Chinese are not allowed in our schools."
Mary is furious and they decide to sue.
ALISA: I just feel so proud that they did that.
Mary and Joseph did not see themselves as marginalized.
I think they felt that they had to assert their rights.
I mean, they weren't born here, but their daughter and their other kids are all born here, so why shouldn't they avail themselves of the privileges and the rights of an American citizen?
MAE: The case goes to the California Supreme Court, which rules that they cannot exclude Chinese from the schools.
But the California Supreme Court, gives a big hint, "There's no law saying you can't segregate."
San Francisco Board of Education hurries to put into place a segregated school just for Chinese.
Mary's incensed and she writes a letter to the school board that gets reprinted in the newspapers.
ALISA: Dear Sirs, will you please tell me, is it a disgrace to be born Chinese?
What right have you to bar my children out of the school because they are of Chinese descent?
Mamie Tape will never attend any of the Chinese schools of your making.
She is more of an American than a good many of you that are going to prevent her from being educated.
Signed Mrs. M. Tape.
MAE: The irony is when the school opens, Frank and Mamie are the first two kids at the school because at the end of the day, they wanted their kids to go to school and it must've been a really, really bitter pill for them to swallow.
ERIKA: Legal challenges were so important for Chinese Americans because they did not have political power.
All Asian immigrants were denied the right of naturalized citizenship.
Asian Americans were demanding equality and social justice for all Americans actually.
NARRATOR: Although the Chinese are near the bottom of the social ladder, they take their fight to the highest court in the land, The U.S. Supreme Court.
Immigrant laundrymen prevail in the case Yick Wo versus Hopkins.
They set the precedent for equal protection under the law, regardless of race.
A restaurant worker named Wong Kim Ark, wins the fight to guarantee citizenship for anyone born in the U.S.
Although the Exclusion Act says to the Chinese, "You have no place in this country," it's the Chinese who help define American citizenship.
CONNIE: My grandfather, Lee Yoke Suey was a merchant, he was born in Chinatown and he had a store.
April 18th, 1906 was the day of the great San Francisco earthquake.
It was the earthquake in the morning and they were evacuated and my grandfather realized there were some papers that he had to have and he runs back and grabs a bunch of papers.
He's coming out and a soldier sees him and bayoneted him because they thought he was a looter.
So my grandfather played dead and got up later when the soldier left and joined his family.
What my grandfather thought was so important that he risked his life for was his birth certificate and several letters of recommendation from white people that he was a legitimate American Citizen.
That's what you needed at that time, that was worth your life.
My grandfather, he would go back and forth to China, but every time he traveled, his papers were checked.
He wanted his family with him, so he brought his family on one of the trips and had them staying in Shanghai.
In September of 1922, he was coming back and he died on board ship.
My grandmother realized she had to go back to the United States and these were American-born children.
My mother and her three sisters.
My mother said it was so exciting when they reached the Golden Gate, they could see the city and they were jumping up with joy and then she said, "And then to be stopped."
NARRATOR: Angel Island Immigration Station, which opened in 1910, is the chief point of entry for immigrants from across Asia.
CONNIE: They had an inspection at the dock.
The children were released because they were American Citizens, but my grandmother's papers, they officially said, "This is Wong Shee, wife of Lee Yoke Suey."
The inspector said, "You're a widow.
Your husband is not with you.
A widow has no status," and she was detained.
She was taken to Angel Island.
Angel Island has been called the Ellis Island of the West.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty represents immigrants being welcome.
Angel Island meant exclusion.
It meant interrogation.
It was a place to be feared.
My grandmother was detained on Angel Island for 15 and a half months.
NARRATOR: In 1977, Connie took her mother back to Angel Island for the first time in 50 years.
CONNIE: My mother would take the ferry with her sister to visit her mother.
She would try to visit like twice a week.
They could only talk through a barrier for like 15 minutes.
My grandmother told my mother, "When you leave, when you go down the walkway to the boat, look at the window of the barracks and I'll be waving from the top floor.
I'll be waving from the window," and so my mother would go down and she'd see my grandmother's hand waving to her.
One of the harshest punishments is to separate parents from their children.
It's the detention of people who are struggling to survive.
NARRATOR: Connie's grandmother spends over a year at Angel Island, before she's finally able to reunite with her American-born children.
Despite the anti-Chinese fervor, new groups of immigrants continue to arrive.
They add to the mix of Asians already in America.
Many are Sikh men from India who find jobs up and down the west coast.
VIVEK: The emphasis in South Asian American history over the years has been on West Coast migration, but from very, very early on, there have also been migrants and immigrants and ship workers coming to ports on the East Coast.
One of the earliest of those migrations consisted of Muslim men from the region of Hooghly, north of Calcutta, who were silk traders.
One of those men was Moksad Ali.
(jazz music plays) (overlapping chatter) AKLEMIA: My name is Aklemia and it comes from India and I'm named after my great grandmother Aklemia.
ROBIN: We heard that my great grandfather Moksad was Turkish.
We heard that he was an Arab.
I knew growing up that he traveled a lot.
He was like a traveling salesman.
VIVEK: The peddler network in some ways have gone under the radar because that group was so transient.
The majority of men who were peddling would come during the summer months to the seaside resorts and then make their way south.
Moksad Ali was one of the earliest to settle in New Orleans.
Moksad Ali and the other peddlers, in order to sell their goods, they played up their South Asian-ness, their Indian-ness.
They played to the fantasies of the exotic East that the tourists who they were selling to expected.
At the end of the day, however, they were dark-skinned men in a deeply segregated society and the places where they were able to live, build homes, marry and begin families were within African American communities.
Moksad married an African American woman from the neighborhood of Treme.
After I wrote about Moksad and Ella in my book, I was contacted by fourth and fifth generation descendants.
ROBIN: To find out that we were Indian, it just intrigued us that we wanted to learn more so we kept reaching out to Vivek, asking him, "Well, did you find out anything?"
VIVEK: This isn't something that I expected.
I had only seen Moksad and Ella as names within archival documents.
I had never even seen photographs of them.
ROBIN: I can recall my grandmother telling me a story about when they were small that her and her dad and mother went to New York on the train.
The kids and the father was all allowed to sit up in the front and the train, but my grandmother had to sit in the back and she said, well, it wasn't that she looked black.
It was the fact that they knew she was black.
I said, well that's odd because some of the kids' skin complexion is darker than my grandmother's.
So, I thought that was really weird, but... VIVEK: Moksad was darker than your grandmother.
I know you've been waiting a while to see it.
The cemeteries back then were segregated.
So they should not have been in here, but they were buried here.
VIVEK: A white cemetery.
ROBIN: A white cemetery.
VIVEK: So he was known as Indian.
VIVEK: And she was known as black.
VIVEK: Even though he was darker skinned, he was allowed to move more freely to do more... ROBIN: Yes.
Where she wasn't.
VIVEK: Breaking the color line in death.
SHARMILA: Surely any immigrant who comes to the United States, whether at the beginning of the 20th century or even at the beginning of the 21st century, comes here and realizes there is a racial hierarchy in this country.
The top is white and at the bottom is black.
That is how it works in the United States and the new immigrant, like any human being, wants to make sure that they're as far from the bottom of the pecking order as possible.
In our quest for whiteness, often we're trying to say, "We're not black, we're not black, we're not black."
That's what we're trying to tell the host country.
I don't think Asians were always given the badge of honorary whiteness, certainly not during the Chinese Exclusion Act.
NARRATOR: Even with families, jobs and dreams, Asians cannot become Americans.
By law, only whites and blacks can apply for naturalized citizenship.
So to become a citizen, Asian immigrants choose what they see as their only option.
VIVEK: For South Asians who wanted to become citizens, for the most part, they made the claim to being white.
SHARMILA: The case of Bhagat Singh Thind is a particularly important case in US legal history, US immigration history, and the history of how we understand race and citizenship in this country.
Bhagat Singh Thind was an Indian from the region of India called Punjab.
He was Sikh, he came to the United States as a young man and joined the U.S. army during the last year of World War I.
Basically he goes to court to prove that he is white.
And this case goes back and forth, back and forth, all the way to the Supreme Court.
The courts say that Bhagat Singh Thind is, as a North Indian, someone from the northern part of the sub-continent, he is Caucasian, but not, that's not white enough.
So he's not white.
MAE: So you have here in 1923 a really interesting example of the Supreme Court acknowledging that race is a social construct.
What the common man on the street thinks is white, that is white, and nobody would consider you to be white.
SHARMILA: If before Thind there were other Indians who could be counted as white, when the court's verdict comes out, that Thind is not white, it has ramifications.
Their citizenship were taken away.
They lost land because land ownership was tied to this.
ERIKA: Following the Bhagat Singh Thind case, the government officials came, knocked on Vaishno das Bagai's door, the South Asian American who brought his entire family to the United States because he believed that the United States, unlike India under British Colonial rule, was a place where his children could be free.
NARRATOR: Because of the Supreme Court decision, Vaishno Das Bagai is now denaturalized and his US citizenship revoked.
And since non-citizens are banned from owning property, he loses his house and his store.
He is stripped of his identity.
ERIKA: He said, "Obstacles in front of me and obstacles behind me."
He could not find a way forward and he commited suicide.
NARRATOR: Anti-immigration policies bar new arrivals, but Asian American families like the Tapes and Alis continue to thrive.
Their US-born children imagine a better future for themselves.
♪ ♪ ERIKA: There is a really important shift in particularly the Chinese and Japanese American community.
There is a second generation population that is growing up.
They're very insistent that they are as American as anyone else.
NARRATOR: This generation wants to play baseball, dance the Charleston, and see themselves reflected on the silver screen.
And for the first time, they do.
SHIRLEY: Anna May Wong was born in Los Angeles, just outside of Chinatown, January 3rd, 1905.
And she was born to a laundry man, and as a child she would deliver bundles of laundry to customers.
With the tips, she would go to the movies.
That helped shape her into wanting to actually become part of Hollywood and the movies.
So Anna May Wong's first starring role was in "The Toll Of The Sea".
She was 17 when she got the role and she plays a Madame Butterfly role where she gets pregnant by an American man and ends up actually giving him the baby and committing suicide.
NANCY: There was always, I think, an ambivalence that her family had with her career.
So even though she was earning a lot, she was actually putting her siblings through school, they were not proud of her.
SHIRLEY: One of her most prominent roles was in "The Thief of Baghdad" with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. MAN: The Mongol slave girl is portrayed by the beauteous Anna May Wong, who is soon to be type for every Oriental role in the Hollywood spectrum.
SHIRLEY: She did play in a somewhat scantily clad outfit and I think she got some grief from her family, but it did catapult her into a level of fame.
Her career had everything to do with American attitudes towards Asian Americans.
MAN: Ling Moy, I can't believe such loathsome jealousy in you.
ANNA: No love now.
Just merciless vengeance.
NANCY: In interviews she would say things like, "Why do we always have to be the villain?"
"Us, a civilization that's so much older than the West."
MARLENE: Don't do anything foolish.
NANCY: She jokes that like on her tombstone has to say, "She died 1,000 deaths," because every single movie she just either commits suicide or gets shot or just dies.
ANNA: Forgive me, majestic father.
NARRATOR: The only other Asian star to grace the silent screen is the Japanese immigrant actor Sessue Hayakawa.
He and Anna May Wong dazzle Hollywood and project an image to audiences who may never meet an Asian in real life.
NANCY: Sessue Hayakawa started in "The Cheat" which was 1915, and "The Cheat" was what really propelled him to superstardom where he became this matinee idol.
Apparently he was walking across the street and there was a puddle and he was, like, grimacing and then all these dozens of white women, like, lay down their furs onto the puddles so he could walk across the fur to them.
ERIKA: "The Cheat" is a great example of an enduring casting of Asian men as a sneaky evildoer who is Westernized on the outside, but Oriental through and through, and who has as his ambition to take over the United States, either through military occupation or through economic control, and most certainly through the possession and defilement of white women.
He literally stamps her, burning his brand into her flesh.
It's a very violent end, a message that perfectly resonated in 1915 with the racial violence that's endemic.
NANCY: Even though the film was highly popular and propelled him to superstardom, the Japanese American community were horrified.
Violence enacted against Japanese because of that film.
NARRATOR: Sessue Hayakawa goes on to establish his own studio to take creative control of his career.
And Anna May Wong continues to work in the talkies.
But leading roles in mainstream movies remain out of reach for her.
So when she learns about a big budget Hollywood movie set in China, she sees an opportunity for a breakthrough.
SHIRLEY: "The Good Earth", everybody in Los Angeles' Chinatown knew it was going to be the biggest movie ever.
It had a huge budget, $2 million.
MGM, big studio production.
The Good Earth epitomized the height of Hollywood yellowface casting with Paul Muni, who's white playing the leading male Chinese peasant, and Luise Rainer.
LUISE: I am with child.
SHIRLEY: Both would go on to win Academy Awards for their performances, so this was rewarded.
♪ JOLSEN: Mammy, mammy ♪♪ SHAIRLEY: Blackface and yellowface, it's really a reflection of Americans and how deeply racist American society was at the time.
White actors and actresses would be made up, blackface, faces blackened, yellowface, eyes taped, yellow makeup and would play in general mocking performances, a very stereotyped and negative portrayal of what they believed the other races to be like.
MAN: You'd better look out.
ANNA: Perhaps the white girl had better be looking out.
SHIRLEY: Anna May Wong knew that if she got a leading role in "The Good Earth" it would change her entire career.
She was asked to try out for Lotus, the supporting role, the evil wife character, and she famously told the Los Angeles Times in 1935, "How dare they ask me to try out for the only negative role in this film, you know, me being the only person with Chinese blood."
ANNA: "December 16th, 1935.
Darling Fania, I've made two tests for the Lotus part.
From all appearances, Miss Rainer is definitely set for the part of Olan.
No use bucking up against a stone wall.
Particularly everyone, including my friends, seem to feel that I should take the Lotus part if there's lots of money in it.
Always, Anna May."
SHIRLEY: Once it became clear to her that she was not going to get the leading role in "The Good Earth" and that the Lotus role was offered to a white actress, she was like, "To hell with Hollywood."
NARRATOR: Despite the bamboo ceiling, Anna May Wong's career spans 40 years in all the mediums of her time.
The girl from Chinatown continues to break barriers and challenge the conventions of race and gender against all odds.
♪ ♪ ELAINE: As the first United States Secretary of Transportation of Chinese ancestry, I have the unique and moving opportunity to fully acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of these laborers of Chinese heritage.
ERIKA: We know well the consequences of immigration exclusion, of denaturalization, of deportation and detention.
It is a history of always being in the shadow, of always feeling unwelcome.
We have to see all of these systems, Jim Crow segregation, Asian exclusion as being interrelated.
VIVEK: Everyone say Moksad and Ella.
CROWD: Moksad and Ella.
ERIKA: They are all part of a larger system about how race works, how we define what it is to be an American.
CONNIE: We honor the courage, fortitude and sacrifice of Chinese railroad workers, and their legacy in America, which belongs to all of us.
NARRATOR: They came here with dreams of gold, but many found the promise of something greater.
Asian immigrants built railroads, they built communities, they built families.
And they reimagined the American dream.
They challenged the country to live up to its ideal as a place where people from all corners of the world can call home.
♪ ♪ ROBERTA: They're Americans and they fought on the side of the United States while the rest of their family was incarcerated.
WOMAN: I couldn't believe we were being corralled to this concentration camp.
SATSUKI: The government framed it as an issue of loyalty.
ROBERTA: My uncles felt compelled to renounce their brother.
He was considered a traitor.
SATSUKI: I'm here today so the rest of this world hears our story.
♪ ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: To order Asian Americans on DVD, visit ShopPBS.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.