The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo

Hong Kong University Press
Free sample

Chinese in America endured abuse and discrimination in the late nineteenth century, but they had a leader and a fighter in Wong Chin Foo (1847–1898), whose story is a forgotten chapter in the struggle for equal rights in America. The first to use the term “Chinese American,” Wong defended his compatriots against malicious scapegoating and urged them to become Americanized to win their rights. A trailblazer and a born showman who proclaimed himself China’s first Confucian missionary to the United States, he founded America’s first association of Chinese voters and testified before Congress to get laws that denied them citizenship repealed. Wong challenged Americans to live up to the principles they freely espoused but failed to apply to the Chinese in their midst. This evocative biography is the first book-length account of the life and times of one of America’s most famous Chinese—and one of its earliest campaigners for racial equality.
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About the author

Scott D. Seligman is a writer, a historian, a genealogist, a retired corporate executive and a career "China hand." He holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University with distinction in American civilization and a master's degree from Harvard University. Fluent in Mandarin and conversant in Cantonese, he lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China for eight years and reads and writes Chinese. He has worked as a legislative assistant to a member of the U.S. Congress, lobbied the Chinese government on behalf of American business, managed a multinational public relations agency in China, served as spokesperson and communications director for a Fortune 50 company and taught English in Taiwan. He is the author of Three Tough Chinamen, Chinese Business Etiquette, and Dealing with the Chinese, and co-author of the best-selling The Cultural Revolution Cookbook, Chinese at a Glance, and Now You're Talking Mandarin Chinese. He lives in Washington, DC.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Hong Kong University Press
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Published on
Mar 1, 2013
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Pages
396
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ISBN
9789888139897
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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A New York Times Bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

“Nobody has captured Hamilton better than Chernow” —The New York Times Book Review 

Ron Chernow's new biography, Grant, will be published by Penguin Press in October 2017. 
A mesmerizing true story of money, murder, gambling, prostitution, and opium in a "wild ramble around Chinatown in its darkest days." (The New Yorker)

Nothing had worked. Not threats or negotiations, not shutting down the betting parlors or opium dens, not house-to-house searches or throwing Chinese offenders into prison. Not even executing them. The New York DA was running out of ideas and more people were dying every day as the weapons of choice evolved from hatchets and meat cleavers to pistols, automatic weapons, and even bombs. Welcome to New York City’s Chinatown in 1925.
            The Chinese in turn-of-the-last-century New York were mostly immigrant peasants and shopkeepers who worked as laundrymen, cigar makers, and domestics. They gravitated to lower Manhattan and lived as Chinese an existence as possible, their few diversions—gambling, opium, and prostitution—available but, sadly, illegal. It didn’t take long before one resourceful merchant saw a golden opportunity to feather his nest by positioning himself squarely between the vice dens and the police charged with shutting them down.
           Tong Wars is historical true crime set against the perfect landscape: Tammany-era New York City. Representatives of rival tongs (secret societies) corner the various markets of sin using admirably creative strategies. The city government was already corrupt from top to bottom, so once one tong began taxing the gambling dens and paying off the authorities, a rival, jealously eyeing its lucrative franchise, co-opted a local reformist group to help eliminate it. Pretty soon Chinese were slaughtering one another in the streets, inaugurating a succession of wars that raged for the next thirty years.
             Scott D. Seligman’s account roars through three decades of turmoil, with characters ranging from gangsters and drug lords to reformers and do-gooders to judges, prosecutors, cops, and pols of every stripe and color. A true story set in Prohibition-era Manhattan a generation after Gangs of New York, but fought on the very same turf.
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Law and Order, you can probably recite your Miranda rights by heart. But you likely don’t know that these rights had their roots in the case of a young Chinese man accused of murdering three diplomats in Washington DC in 1919. A frantic search for clues and dogged interrogations by gumshoes erupted in sensational news and editorial coverage and intensified international pressure on the police to crack the case.

Part murder mystery, part courtroom drama, and part landmark legal case, The Third Degree is the true story of a young man’s abuse by the Washington police and an arduous, seven-year journey through the legal system that drew in Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John W. Davis, and J. Edgar Hoover. The ordeal culminated in a sweeping Supreme Court ruling penned by Justice Louis Brandeis that set the stage for the Miranda warning many years later. Scott D. Seligman argues that the importance of the case hinges not on the defendant’s guilt or innocence but on the imperative that a system that presumes one is innocent until proven guilty provides protections against coerced confessions.

Today, when the treatment of suspects between arrest and trial remains controversial, when bias against immigrants and minorities in law enforcement continues to deny them their rights, and when protecting individuals from compulsory self-incrimination is still an uphill battle, this century-old legal spellbinder is a cautionary tale that reminds us how we got where we are today and makes us wonder how far we have yet to go.

 
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