The deed to the house I mostly grew up in Portland (in the Hollywood district of NE) had a clause that stated if any owner sold it to an African American or Chinese (paraphrasing the original language), the property was supposed to revert back to the previous owner. The clause wasn′t enforced because such restrictive covenants are no longer constitutional (luckily!), but learning about it in high school was revelatory, an eye-opening experience that helped explain the feeling we had, both of being the only Asian household in our neighborhood and of living next to the only Black household in our neighborhood. That past informs Portland′s present and its future. Here’s a documentary that raises questions about that future:
(as does this Washington Post article)
On my way to do research at the SF regional branch of the National Archives, I realized the odd historical juxtaposition of its immediate geography. To get to the archives – to do research on Asian American history – I’ve been walking through a mall that is built on the site of the former Tanforan racetrack, which was both an assembly center during the Japanese American internment and the home of Seabiscuit, the racehorse.
Here are the plaques commemorating the two (and sideways perspective of the JA plaque showing it in its commercial context):
I’ve posted about the Asiatic Barred Zone and Asia-Pacific Triangle recently. I’ve also been looking into ways to display them interactively. After a bit of digging, I learned about KML (Keyhole Markup Language), an extension of XML for geographic annotation and visualization that has become the standard for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). I put together a small KML file to display both the ABZ and the APT. I’ve embedded a map view below using the file that allows you to view and interact with it using Google Maps. The file can also be downloaded and used independently with Google Earth.
View Larger Map
Unfortunately, Google Maps/Earth only displays contemporary political boundaries in its standard view. I’m looking into finding or develop an overlay that displays political boundaries in the region from 1917-1965. If anyone knows of one or would like to assist, please contact me by e-mail.
Last week I posted some of my research on the Asiatic “Barred Zone” including a map of the zone.To follow up, here are a few brief notes about the Asia-Pacific Triangle, which replaced the barred zone.
Continue reading “The Asia-Pacific Triangle”
As I’ve occasionally posted, I’m researching the “Asiatic Barred Zone” created by Congress in 1917 for an article and book project on race, geography, and territoriality. Recently I’ve been going over the Congressional Record and other government documents to retrace the specific details of its origin and formulation and found some interesting material.
Continue reading “The “Asiatic Barred Zone””
I posted this summer about Lakeshore Drive’s commemoration of Chicago’s 1919 race riot. This fall, preparing to lecture about the events of the riot for one of my courses, I read a new book, Red Summer, about the several race riots in the United States in 1919 whose broader context inform the Chicago riot.
Following its detailed narrative account, I realized that I had made a mistaken assumption about the geography of the beach’s, as opposed to Chicago’s, segregation. Historically the city’s predominantly African American communities have developed south of its original urban and commercial center. The association is strong enough that the expression “South Side” is sometimes used synonymously with what University of Chicago sociologists called the “Black Belt.”
In imagining the events on the beach on July 27, 1919, I had always thought the line marking its segregation followed the same north-south distinction. Accounts I had read recounted a group of African American teenagers unwittingly crossing an extension of Chicago’s color line into Lake Michigan’s waters without specifying direction. Generalizing the city’s racial geography to the specific incident, I assumed they swam north from the south. Cameron McWhirter, Red Summer’s author, makes clear instead that they went south from the north.
Continue reading “segregation’s space: Lakeshore revisited”
For several summers while taking bike rides along the Chicago lakeshore, I regularly passed a construction zone just south of McCormick Center. Once a few summers ago, stopping near the zone, I noticed a rock along the path with what appeared to be a plaque on it. Taking a closer look, I saw that the plaque was the product of a 2009 high school project marking the spot where the 1919 Chicago race riot, one of the bloodiest and largest race riots in American history, had begun. The rock and plaque, while nice, didn’t seem to do justice to the significance of the event and left me reflecting on how we commemorate sites of historical violence.
Continue reading “Lakeshore memorial”
I’ve been doing background research for my new project on geography and Asian American history, which I’m tentatively calling Barred Zones after the “Asiatic Barred Zone” established in 1917. Part of the article/chapter I’m writing involves systems of longitude and latitude—which fascinates my inner geek. While most people associate these systems with geography and think of them as, in a sense, “natural” because they locate places on the Earth, they are actually “social,” produced by people and institutions within specific historical contexts and circumstances, including politics, local, regional, national and international. A nice example demonstrating this point is the Washington meridian and its use in defining state and territorial borders within the United States in the late 19th century.
Continue reading “Washington meridian(s)”
Continuing last week’s post about Aladdin:
The Disney film made Aladdin Arabic (and an accused thief instead of a ne’er-do-well tailor’s son) and renamed the princess of his affections Jasmine—from the original’s Badroulbadour (Bedrulbudour, Bedr-el-Budur, Badr al-Budur). Perhaps more significantly, its villain was not the African magician/sorcerer of the literary versions. Instead, following the 1940 adaptation of Thief of Bagdad, the Disney film’s villain was the evil and conniving court advisor, Grand Vizier Jafar (Jaffar in the 1940 film, played by Veidt, its star). The name and title derives from a figure who appears in several of the Thousand and One Nights tales and is loosely based on an actual 9th century historical figure, Ja’far al-Barmaki, vizier to the caliph of Baghdad. Another 9th century historical figure, the poet Abu Nuwas, who appears as a court jester figure in the Nights, provided the name for the thief in the 1940 film—which had divided the 1924 film’s title character into two: a prince, Ahmad, and a thief, Abu—and Aladdin’s sidekick monkey in the Disney film.
Continue reading “Disney’s Aladdin“
Now that I’ve finished my book on popular science and science fiction in the interwar era, Astounding Wonder (University of Pennsylvania Press, March 2012), I’ve returned to another project on geography, race, and Asian Americans that I’m calling Barred Zones.
Continue reading “Barred Zones“