Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Douglas R. Reynolds - Chair

Second Advisor

Glenn T. Eskew

Third Advisor

Krystyn R. Moon


The study examines the formation and development of Chinese American populations in Augusta, Savannah, and Atlanta, Georgia from the beginnings of Chinese Exclusion period through the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965. Although people of Chinese ancestry were in an ambiguous position upon their arrival in the 1880s within the black-white dyad that defined southern race relations, they were able to negotiate this system, transforming themselves from being perceived as “outsiders” before the 1940s to being treated as “honorary whites” by the late 1960s. To explore this transition, this project analyzes generational differences between immigrants and their children. Before the 1920s, the mostly Chinese immigrant male population concerned themselves with establishing viable businesses for sending remittances back to family in China and creating social institutions that helped the men cope with decades of separation from their families. The men avoided possible conflict with Jim Crow by having their businesses and residences in black or immigrant areas. Some men cultivated better relations with whites by attending Sunday schools that catered to Chinese immigrants. The mutation from “outsider” to “honorary white” status began when prosperous Chinese men started sending for wives to join them in the 1910s, thus ushering in a new pattern of planned long-term settlement in the state. Families successfully challenged the older perception by joining white churches, enrolling their children in white schools, and building social ties with white community leaders. Second generation Chinese Americans reaped the benefits of this strategy in the 1950s and 1960s by gaining access to housing in white neighborhoods, employment opportunities in white-collar occupations, and acceptance as partners in marriages with European Americans.