New Book Shines Light on Chinese Exclusion Act

Forbidden Citizens investigates the Chinese Exclusion Act through the documents, debates, and circumstances that led to its passage.


In October, the Senate passed Resolution 201, a statement apologizing for 6 decades of anti-Chinese legislation under the Chinese Exclusion laws. One of those who helped secure its adoption is Martin Gold, a partner of Covington & Burling LLP and author of the recently published book, Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the US Congress: A Legislative History (TheCapitol.Net, 2012). Mr. Gold began the book shortly after the resolution’s passage and has received strong reviews for the landmark study.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the result of a growing racial tension against Chinese laborers following the Gold Rush years. Among the law‘s discriminatory provisions was a 10 year ban on Chinese immigration, prevention of re-entry for those already settled, and exclusion from US citizenship. It solely targeted ethnic Chinese; immigration of other peoples remained unlimited during this period. This legalized racial discrimination did not end until the law was repealed in 1943.

“Forbidden Citizens” investigates the background surrounding the Chinese Exclusion Act, providing readers with a thorough look at the documents, debates, and circumstances that led to its passage. It is the first account of this dark period in Asian-American history to fully explore these events in exhaustive detail. For the book and his pro-bono work to further Resolution 201, Mr. Gold received the “Champion of Justice” award from the Chinese American Citizens Alliance this year.

The Chinese Historical Society of America Museum and Frank Wu, Chancellor & Dean of UC Hastings College of Law will host the introduction of “Forbidden Citizens” on July 24, 2012, 5:30 p – 7:30 pm at the CHSA Museum.