For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of mentoring high school level interns through our partnership with New Door Ventures, an organization that provides paid jobs, skills training, and education to help young adults get ready for work and life. Youth come to our office here in San Francisco and work for three months at a time, learning new technology skills and shaping a Historypin project of their choice.
My recent intern Crystal Fok, a high school senior at Lincoln here in San Francisco, recently completed her time with us. I’m sad to see her go, but proud of the amazing work she accomplished during her time here. In addition to helping to curate content for our US National Archives’ partnership Remembering WWI, she produced a killer final project, “Journey of Two Angel Island Immigrants.” Wanting to learn more about her local history, she chose Angel Island Immigration Station as her topic, a previous gateway for many immigrants entering the US and situated in the San Francisco Bay.
For her project, Crystal adopted new research skills while for the first time becoming familiar with some of San Francisco’s important cultural institutions. Among her research were visits to the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco’s Chinatown, as well the US National Archives’ regional facility in San Bruno, where she obtained the records for two boys who passed through Angel Island during the early 20th century.
With her materials in hand, she put together an extensive Historypin Tour, which is included below. Her introduction is as follows:
The Angel Island Immigration station, located on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, (operated from 1910 to 1940) was once an enduring presence in the lives of many immigrants who wanted to start anew in the United States. While the station was in operation, the xenophobic Chinese Exclusion Act was in full force, the first legislation to restrict a specific ethnic group into the country. However, the disastrous earthquake and fire that hit San Francisco in 1906 resulted in the loss of thousands of paper records of Chinese living in the city, giving many Chinese had the opportunity to claim “native-born” citizenship. The “native-born” would travel back to claim they had children in China, enabling their “children” to get an American citizenship. This created a phenomenon called paper sons and daughters, where those seeking American citizenship would acquire a coaching book revealing information about their supposed family and village. Most would study the coaching book at home, or even during the ship journey to Angel Island, after which they would throw the coaching book away to hide all evidence that pointed to the fact that they were paper sons or daughters. At Angel Island, immigration officials created an intensive interrogation process to determine if recent arrivals were the true children of American citizens. Some paper sons and daughters passed the interrogation, while others did not. Here is a story of two boys journeys to Angel Island. Both claimed they were the son of a Chinese American merchant, although it is unclear if either were paper sons.
Click on the image below to access her Tour on Historypin:
I thank Crystal again for her amazing work, and wish her the best of luck as she starts college in the fall. To learn more about our internships, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.