Event—Public Programming

Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky: Experiences of Chinese Immigrants to the US

Mark Johnson's forthcoming book, The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky, recovers the stories of Montana’s Chinese population in their own words.

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This program will be held in person at the Newberry. Please register for free in advance here.

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From the earliest days of non-Native settlement of Montana, Chinese pioneers played a key role in the region’s development. But the Chinese immigrant community remains underrepresented in historical accounts. Mark Johnson's forthcoming book, The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky, recovers the stories of Montana’s Chinese population in their own words.

Johnson has mined several large collections of primary documents left by Chinese pioneers, rendered in English here for the first time through a transnational translation project. These collections, spanning the 1880s-1950s, provide insight into the pressures the Chinese community faced—from family members back in China and from non-Chinese Montanans—as economic and cultural disturbances complicated acceptance of Chinese residents in the state.

Through their own voices, The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky reveals the agency of Chinese Montanans in the history of the American West and China.

Mark T. Johnson is associate professor in the Institute of Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame.

Allen Wang is a J.D. Candidate at Columbia Law School. He was a student involved in one of the translation projects with Mark T. Johnson, traveled from Shanghai to Montana to research on the team, and has stayed connected with the project since then.

Madeline Crispell is Program Coordinator at the Newberry Library and Assistant Curator for Crossings: Mapping American Journeys. Her work focuses on immigration history and material culture.

Purchase The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky online from the Newberry Bookshop.

This event is part of programming for our current exhibition Crossings: Mapping American Journeys, which will run at the Newberry through June 25, 2022.

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