Minnesota Immigrant Oral Histories


Ying and Oct Huie with car, Duluth, ca. 1955. MNHS Photo Collection.

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Minnesota in the mid-1870s, almost all of them single working men escaping anti-Asian violence in the western United States. Most settled in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth, with the rest sparsely scattered in outlying towns, including on the Iron Range. Nationally, the Chinese population declined in the U.S. following the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which stopped almost all immigration to the U.S. from China. However, the number of Chinese in Minnesota increased at this time due to migration from western states. By 1910 there were almost 400 Chinese men in Minnesota, though only a handful of Chinese families.

In 1943 Congress repealed the Chinese exclusion laws, although new laws still held immigration from China down to a thin trickle. The law also made it possible—for the first time in U.S. history—for Chinese immigrants to become American citizens. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which removed all immigration quotas based on national origin, greatly increased the number of immigrants arriving from Asia, especially Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Mainland Chinese began to arrive in greater numbers in the 1980s.

Many Chinese who have immigrated to Minnesota since World War II have come to attend or work for the University of Minnesota. In 2009 20,600 Chinese (and 400 Taiwanese) were living in Minnesota, out of a total U.S. Chinese population of nearly 3 million.

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