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The First Chinese American

by: Scott D. Seligman

Hong Kong : Hong Kong University Press 2013, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-988-8139-90-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(2) page(s): 25

Subtitled: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo, John KW Tchen says on the rear cover, that Wong is “the earliest most visible Chinese public advocate who speaks and writes in English about the rights of his countrymen.” In the Journal of Chinese Studies it says “we owe Seligman a debt of gratitude for rescuing Wong Chin Foo from anonymity...unearthing massive documents from the dustbin of history”.

From Renqiu Yu, a professor at Purchase College, Seligman gets credit for this “brilliant narrative of the colorful story of a man of unusual energy and resilience...in Chinese America.” To Peter Gordon of The Asian Review of Books, we read it is “evocative history of a post-Civil- War America, .....(and) an in-depth introduction to the Chinese struggle for equal rights”.

This remarkable volume is about the life of Wong Chin Foo in twenty-eight detailed chapters. It begins with From The Arid Land of Heathenism (1847 - 67) to the last titled: I Do Not Like Chinese Ways, Nor Chinamen Any More (1898). After them, an eight-page Afterword.

There are thirty-six pages of Foo’s published items from newspapers, Glossaries and Gazetterers, a nine-page Bibliography, and eight two-column Index pages about this remarkable Chinese American, maps, b/w pictures of family, places, and other people, and on the back cover, a picture of Foo with his long braided queue, about his parents, that he wanted to bring his own son to the US, and about his family, daily life, businesses, places he lectured, the Chinese Equal Rights League of 1892, his work for justice for all Chinese, and more biography about this Chinese-American chap in the US.

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