NU Archives Receives Grant to Digitize Boston Chinese Community Records

August 29, 2011

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(617) 373-7656

The Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department has won a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The $30,000 award is for a project to digitize and make available via the Internet the entire Chinese Progressive Association collection comprising 12 cubic feet of historical material, including documents, posters, photographs, negatives, and audio and videotapes, dating from 1976-2006.

Founded in 1977, the Chinese Progressive Association, originally called the Chinatown People's Progressive Association, was established to advocate “for full equity and empowerment of the Chinese community in the Greater Boston area and beyond.” The Association’s early projects included promoting the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, working with tenants on eviction and other tenant issues, and organizing community support for victims of racial violence, including Wei–ti Choi in 1979 and Long Guang Huang in 1985. In the early 1980s, the Association registered voters, raised awareness of electoral issues in Chinatown, worked for bilingual education, and lobbied Massachusetts politicians to provide forms and office support in Chinese. In the mid–1980s, the Association worked closely with displaced garment workers from the P & L Sportswear and Beverly Rose Sportswear factories to establish Commonwealth–funded bilingual retraining programs and greater awareness for the issues concerning garment workers and, more generally, immigrant workers in Boston. The Association's involvement with the garment workers led to the founding of the Workers' Center in 1987.

The Association also became involved in the struggle between Chinatown residents and the City of Boston and Tufts-New England Medical Center over the proposed development of Parcel C in Chinatown. The Association's advocacy, along with that of other community groups, led to the withdrawal of the Medical Center's plan. The Chinese Progressive Association continues its work on tenants' rights, workers' rights, political empowerment, and local Chinatown issues, including a campaign to re–establish a branch library in Chinatown and to secure the future of Chinese and Vietnamese bilingual ballots for Boston voters.

The records to be digitized contain rich documentation of themes including urban development, workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, minority rights, community relations, racial violence, bilingual education, and retraining adult workers during the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st century. The images document rallies and protests against the expansion of Tufts–New England Medical Center in Chinatown; demonstrations in support of striking workers at the Dynasty Restaurant in Chinatown, the International Paper mill in Jay, Maine, and Power One in Allston, Massachusetts; and rallies in support of bilingual education, reform of the Combat Zone (Boston's red–light district), and Long Guang Huang, a victim of police brutality in Chinatown. The images also depict celebrations in recognition of Chinese holidays, such as the August Moon Festival, Chinese New Year, and Chinese National Day. Also in the collection is "Through Strength and Struggle," a documentary on P & L garment workers' struggle for job training produced by the Association’s Workers’ Center in 1988.

This project continues Northeastern University Libraries' dedication to preserving and making accessible the history of Boston's Chinese community. View a list of special collections available for research in the NU Archives and Special Collections Department.

Chinese Progressive Associaton Photo
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