R.I.’s past includes a significant flavor of Chinese immigration

Thanks to a Brown University faculty and graduate student project titled “Providence’s Chinatown,” the region has been reacquainted with a significant, if small, piece of its past.

Chinese immigrants were a visible piece of the Capital City’s landscape from the latter part of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century. As with many such immigrant communities, the Chinese supported one another as they struggled to assimilate and overcome prejudice. Merchants banded together to help newcomers start businesses, often restaurants and laundries.

The end of World War II brought with it redevelopment of much of Providence, and an accompanying destruction of many of the businesses created by Chinese immigrants. As a result, the 3,000-4,000 members of the Chinese-American community were split up across the state.

It can be easy to focus on the challenges of immigration today, but it is important to remember that the nation has been built on successive waves of immigration and assimilation, and that each cycle has added to our unique position in the world.

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