The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Classroom Connections No. 1 – The Chinese Exclusion Act

About This Video:

This video accompanies BackStory episode “To be a Citizen? The History of Becoming American,” the first episode in the Classroom Connections series. The episode explores how different Americans have defined “citizenship” through the centuries.

This video uses the chunking method to reinforce key ideas and concepts. A companion lesson set is also available. Find more teacher resources in BackStory’s educator portal and keep up with new episodes by joining the Classroom Connections mailing list and/or Facebook group.

Discussion Questions:


What was the Chinese Exclusion Act and how did it pass?

What was life like for Chinese Americans before and after the Chinese Exclusion Act?


Who was likely to support the Chinese Exclusion Act? Why do you think so? Who was likely to oppose the Chinese Exclusion Act? Why do you think so?

How is the Chinese Exclusion Act an example of nativism? Why do you think an Irish immigrant like Dennis Kearny would support the act?


Outside of the debate over the Chinese Exclusion Act what else was happening in the United States during the late 19th century? Could any of these events, people, and concepts you thought of have had an impact on the debate?

Consider and Connect

Could today’s US Government pass a law like the Chinese Exclusion Act? What evidence do you have to support your claim?

Does the Chinese Exclusion Act remind you of anything else from US History? Give a specific example and explain.

Additional Resources:

Classroom Connections No. 1 Lesson Set

Information about images used in this video

Information about video clips used in this video

About the audio clip: Kearney Dramatized rendition of speech by Denis Kearney in 1877, denouncing Chinese workers and capitalists in equal parts. Recorded by Haight Ashbury Community Radio Project, 1980. Source: