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Angel Island: An Asian Pacific American Heritage Activity

Students get a unique firsthand account of what it was like for a young girl to move from a small village in China to the United States in the 1930s.


3–5, 6–8

Activity Type

  • Activities and Games

Many Asian Americans once faced obstacles immigrating and adjusting to life in our country. In Angel Island: Li Keng Wong’s Story(grades 4–8), students can read a firsthand account of such an experience. Li Keng Wong shares what it was like in the 1930s to move with her family at age 7 from a small village in China to the Chinatown in Oakland, California.

  • Life in China: Li Keng Wong explains how her father left their small village in China for America to search for a better life. Upon his return, he decides to move his family to the U.S.
  • Preparing to Leave: The Wong family practices answers the American authorities will question them on, including how they must call their mother “auntie,” because laborers weren’t allowed to bring wives to America.
  • Leaving Home: The Wongs start their journey to the U.S., giving away their belongings and traveling to Hong Kong by foot, boat, and train.
  • Hong Kong: The Wongs hear English spoken for the first time and shop for American-style clothes.
  • Arriving at Angel Island: After sailing for 19 days, they arrive in San Francisco to Angel Island, where an estimated 175,000 Chinese immigrants passed through.
  • Detained on Angel Island: After a week locked up in barracks, the Wongs have their immigration interview and are interrogated separately. They are released, but Li Keng Wong is traumatized by the experience.
  • Growing Up in Oakland: The Wong children attend American school to learn English. They socialize with other Chinese-Americans. Li Keng Wong’s father opens a restaurant, and the family works 7 days a week to help it succeed.
  • My Life Today: Li Keng Wong reflects on achieving the American dream.
  • Interview: Li Keng Wong answers 20 questions from students, including if she was scared when she came to the U.S., the racism her family experienced in America, what her life is like now, and more.



Learning Objective

By participating in the Angel Island: Li Keng Wong’s Story activity, students relive the Asian-American experience through a firsthand accounts.

Susan Cheyney

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