Asian American Experiences in California: Past, Present, Future

Posted on Thu., March 23, 2023

The Huntington lies at the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, and it holds ever-deepening collections relating to Asian diaspora in California and beyond. The Asian American Experiences in California Symposium held on March 4, 2023, brought together scholars, public intellectuals, and community leaders to reflect on Asian American histories and experiences in California.

Introduction and welcome remarks:

Simon K.C. Li, Huntington Trustee

Panel 1: Historical Roots (Pre-1965)

This panel focuses on the roots of Asian experience, and anti-Asian racism, in California, with presenters drawing extensively on The Huntington’s Pacific Rim collections.


Gordon H. Chang, Stanford University, “Beyond Promontory: Chinese Railroad Workers and the Rise of California”

Naomi Hirahara, writer, “Torii Gate Welcoming Empire: Japanese Immigrant and Nisei Cultural Workers and Pasadena Landscape and Life”

Jean Chen Ho, writer, University of Southern California, “Sight/Cite/Site: Racial Violence, Chinese Angelenos, and the Lost Stories of LA’s Original Chinatown”

Marci Kwon, Stanford University, “The Asian American Art Initiative at Stanford University”


Li Wei Yang, The Huntington

Panel 2: Shaping the Present (1965–Present)

The second panel of The Huntington’s Asian American Experiences in California Symposium explores the ways in which immigration reforms in 1965 have shaped the recent experiences of Asians and Asian Americans in California, particularly in the communities immediately surrounding The Huntington.


Wendy Cheng, Scripps College, “Assimilating into Difference: Multiethnic and Multiracial Histories of the San Gabriel Valley”

Jane Hong, Occidental College, “Asian American Evangelicals & Southern California Histories”

Oliver Wang, California State University, Long Beach, “The Nisei Week Cruise: Japanese American Car Culture in the 1970s and ’80s”

Linda Trinh Vo, University of California, Irvine, “Crafting Community: Vietnamese Americans in Orange County”


Gordon Chang, Stanford University

Panel 3: Future Provocations

This final panel of The Huntington’s Asian American Experiences in California Symposium considers the future of Asian America—in particular, how Asians and Asian Americans might learn from and build on past experiences to create a more equitable future.


Manjusha P. Kulkarni, AAPI Equity Alliance, “Resistance and Resilience: Asian Americans’ Response to Hate”

Jimenez Lai, Bureau Spectacular

Karin Wang, University of California, Los Angeles, “Asian Americans: Racialization and Privilege”

Jeff Chang, writer


Yinshi Lerman-Tan, The Huntington

Additional Information

This symposium was made possible through generous support from the Sammy Yukuan Lee Foundation and the Justin Vajna Memorial Fund for Educational Programs in the Chinese Garden.