From the earliest days of non-Native settlement of Montana, when Chinese immigrants made up more than 10 percent of the territory’s population, Chinese pioneers played a key role in the region’s development. But this population, so crucial to Montana’s history, remains underrepresented in historical accounts, and popular attention to the Chinese in Montana tends to focus on sensational elements—exoticizing Chinese Montanans and distancing their lived experiences from our modern understanding. Mark T. Johnson’s new book, The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky, seeks to recover the stories of Montana’s Chinese population in their own words and deepen understanding of Chinese experiences in Montana by using a global lens.
Join the Butte Archives at noon on Wednesday, May 11, as Mark discusses the impact of the Chinese on Montana’s history. Johnson has mined several large collections of primary documents left by Chinese pioneers, translated into English here for the first time. These collections, spanning the 1880s through the 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 Johnson reveals the agency of Chinese Montanans in the history of the American West and China.
The Brown Bag Lunch will begin at noon and run about an hour at the Archives, 17 W. Quartz Street. The Archives recommends masks for the safety of our patrons. Coffee and water will be served and guests may bring a sack lunch.
For more information, contact the Archives at 782-3280.