Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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IMMIGRANT VOICES

 

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Ito, Kaoru Okawa : Kaoru Okawa Ito: Entrepreneur, Teacher, Pioneer, Independent Before Her Time by Grant Din
Year of Arrival 1919

Japanese immigrant Kaoru Okawa Ito was an entrepreneur, educator, and artist, operated sewing schools in Oakland and Stockton, taught tea ceremony and flower arrangement, and was one of the first Japanese Americans to become a naturalized citizen in 1953,  shortly after the ban on Japanese naturalization, in effect since 1790, was finally lifted.

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Lee, Mrs. Yoke Suey : Mrs. Lee Yoke Suey's Fifteen Month Detainment on Angel Island by AIISF
Year of Arrival 1923

"Detained" is the story of Angel Island Immigration Station and the unjust detention of one individual, Mrs. Lee Yoke Suey, and the battle to secure her release. In the video is a film clip by Freida Lee Mock in her 1974 documentary, Jung-Sai: Chinese Americans, of a visit by Mrs. Lee's daughter to the barracks where her mother was detained for 15 and a half months. It is a rare glimpse at the Angel Island immigration barracks from the 1970s, long before they were renovated. Please click the link below the maps to watch the 12-minute story.

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Wong, Chong Mun : Wong Chong Mun: Hero to His Son by Linda Wing
Year of Arrival 1899

Wong Chong Mun was born in 1871 in the village of Cheng Gong. He was an only child.

Chong Mun wanted to become a doctor but his father Wong Hoy Fun rejected this idea because he believed that bad luck would strike if a patient passed away. All the same, Chong Mun became well educated, obtaining the equivalent of a Ph.D., financing his schooling with money his father sent home to China from the US where he was a sojourner.  Hoy Fun encouraged Chong Mun to become a government official and live off graft, as was the custom of the time. Accordingly, Chong Mun went to Beijing to take the imperial examination to qualify for a government position, but he did not do well on the test.  Village school superintendent was the job he subsequently found instead.

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Fong, Hong May : A Life's Adventure of a Paper Daughter: Fong Hong May (Helen Fong) by Calvin Fong
Year of Arrival 1925

After the death of Fong Poy’s (aka Fong Wan) second wife, Fannie Ng in 1924, he didn’t trust his own instincts in selecting another wife.  He decided to have a traditionally-arranged marriage through his parents in China, and requested his mother and sisters to select a young woman who would be compatible with his strong (albeit, stubborn) character.  Since his family believed in horoscopes, they most likely consulted the Chinese astrological charts and horoscopes of prospective brides for mutual compatibility. They interviewed several eligible girls from the nearby villages and decided on a young woman from the Lee clan.  Back-and-forth negotiations ensued between the two families, with probing questions from the Lee family concerning Fong Poy’s character, demeanor and ability to care for his new wife.  After an agreement was made, Fong Poy gave a large dowry to the Lee family as per Chinese custom.  The selected maiden was the envy of her friends and other eligible girls because the chosen one would marry a prosperous “wah que” (overseas Chinese) living in America.

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Matsuzawa, Atsushi and Kanae  : The Matsuzawas: Nisei Marye Kimoto Remembers Her Family and Its Angel Island Experiences by Nancy F. Fong
Year of Arrival 1911

At 87 and living in Culver City, CA, Marye Kimoto fondly looked back on the lives of her family, which included her issei parents who were first generation Japanese immigrants, as well as her younger sister Bessie and herself, nisei who were the American born children of issei.

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Interpreters, Anonymous : Behind the Scenes: Stories from Angel Island Interpreters by Sammie Wills
Year of Arrival Unknown

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Ohashi, Mihi Endo : Reflections from the grandson of a Japanese picture bride by Glenn Osaka
Year of Arrival 1912

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Chin, Shee : One Step Closer by Jack G, Fourth Grader
Year of Arrival 1920

Teacher's Note

This piece was written with the purpose of bringing to life and then preserving a family's immigration story, and it was written by a fourth grader.  Sitting at a table in my fourth grade classroom, Jack worked quietly and independently on this story for several weeks in December of 2013.  The whole class was given the task of investigating how their families came to California, which is a Palo Alto fourth grade tradition called the "California Passport Project."  Jack took the assignment very seriously, envisioning and revising his piece with patience and care that is exceptional for writers his age.  After poring over his drafts, covering sheets of looseleaf in blue and then red ink, Jack sat at one of our classroom computers, continuing to examine and reflect, improve and perfect his work.  The result was so beyond what other students wrote in its narrative quality that when I read it, I quickly called Jack over to express my admiration and amazement at what he had created.  He took bare facts that most kids regurgitated sequentially and crafted a story that is lively, engaging, and descriptive.  I believe this piece captures an important piece of American history, and it captures a powerful moment in the development of a fourth grade writer.  I hope you enjoy and value this story as much as I did.

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Singh, Kehar : Becoming American: The Journey of Early Sikh Pioneer Kehar Singh by AIISF
Year of Arrival 1913

Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader who centers her work around the power of storytelling. She is the founder of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary, a non-profit initiative with 100,000+ members that equips people of faith to mobilize for social change. For the last decade, she has led national campaigns responding to hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, and solitary confinement. She and her husband and filmmaking partner Sharat Raju made an eleven-minute film about her grandfather Kehar Singh, and recently learned more from AIISF and the National Archives about Mr. Singh's detention on Angel Island in 1913. Valarie will be starting work on a book this year that includes her grandfather's story.

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Wong, Calvin : Calvin Chew Wong's Family: Four Generations of Immigrants by Gerrye Wong
Year of Arrival 1938

Calvin Chew Wong’s family history in America began in 1881 when his great grand-uncle Wong Ock Yen came to America at the age of 17 to San Francisco, California. Although he was the younger brother of Calvin’s great grandfather, Wong Ock Dung, he was sent to America first because the older brother who recently married was expecting his first born son, Calvin’s grandfather Wong Lip Chin. Calvin’s great grandfather eventually came over in 1884 or 1885 as a laborer even though he was educated and could read and write Chinese. Soon after his arrival, he got a job as a bookkeeper for the local Chinese businesses. He eventually earned enough money to buy a grocery store in Alameda, California.

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Dolgirev, Natalie : With Regard to Bobbie - The Story of Nataliya Dolgirev, nee Romancheko, aka “Bobbie” or “Natasha” by Natalie D. and family
Year of Arrival 1917

Natalie D. retells the story of her paternal grandmother and namesake, Nataliya Dolgriev.

Nataliya Dolgirev, also known as “Bobbie”, was our paternal grandmother. She immigrated to the United States during the Russian Revolution, traveling from Russia via Harbin, China and then to Vancouver, Canada by ship, before she arrived by train in the San Francisco Bay Area. We called her "Bobbie" because when we were little, growing up in Santa Rosa, California we did not speak Russian and could not say "babushka", the Russian word for "grandmother," so our parents taught us to call her "Bobbie."

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Der, David : Dr. Der's Story of Immigration and Community Service by Grant Din
Year of Arrival 1939

AIISF supporter Dr. David Der has been named a Local Hero by the Federation of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian Medical Societies (FCMS) for his many years of service to the Asian immigrant community in the greater Oakland area. He left Kaiping, in Guangdong province, in 1939 to escape the war, and passed through Angel Island. Read his story about coming to America, growing up in Oakland, how he got into medicine, and the many community organizations he volunteered with and helped found at FCMS's website.

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Samra, Dalip Singh : From Punjab, India to Angel Island by Samra Family and AIISF
Year of Arrival 1910

Hard work and perseverance will take you anywhere in this world, and Dalip Singh Samra learned that lesson very early.

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