“Learned from Black Friends”: The Asian-American Struggle for Housing and Equal Employment in New York City, 1969 – 1974
The size of New York’s Chinese community surged after 1968, in turn leading to shortages in affordable housing and insufficient employment opportunities. The urban crisis of New York City exacerbated these problems. This thesis will explore New York’s Asian-American collective struggles against landlords’ eviction and employment discrimination.
The housing story began in 1969. The New York Telephone Company bought buildings in Chinatown and evicted all tenants. Tenants used various strategies to resist. Finally, their efforts secured a long-term lease. The employment story mainly occurred in 1974. The developer of Confucius Plaza in Chinatown hired two Asian construction workers to accommodate the requirements of the affirmative action. Asian Americans protested massively and finally got thirty nine positions for Asian Americans.
This thesis’s primary source base will draw on publications of racial minority organizations such as I Wor Kuen and Asian Americans for Equal Employment, newspapers, oral histories, and government statistics. This thesis asks: How did “model minorities” become political activists? What was the role of interracial coalitions in two struggles? How did protesters succeed? And what was the legacy of two struggles?
This thesis argues that interracial coalitions emerged from colleges. Student group activities prepared Asian college students to participate in social movements. Asian American activists identified and successfully avoided eviction and work discrimination by using wise strategies. The younger generation’s commitment and interracial coalitions were keys to their success. Two struggles added racial minorities’ housing and employment problems to the city’s political agenda, establishing paradigms for subsequent resistances. Two struggles trained future Chinese-American leaders, sowing the seeds of the self-determination of Asian-American communities in the background of Asian American movements.