DAVID: When the Chinese revolution comes, there is this fear.
SENATOR: Are you a member of the Communist Party?
HELEN: Being Chinese made you an automatic suspect.
ALEX: I'm a Filipino, so it doesn't matter.
"You're not one of us."
RANDALL: You grow up and you think of yourself as a "Cartwright" and then you realize that everyone around you sees you as a "Hop Sing".
ERIKA: These groups have overcome great adversity.
They were now good Americans.
HELEN: You're the model minority.
You keep your mouth shut.
WU: Patsy Mink wanted to be the first Asian American woman to go into the House of Representatives.
TAMMY: What she did for women's rights and equal rights, not just for Asian Americans, not just for women, but for all Americans.
HELEN: There really are these amazing Asian American women who were bad-ass women.
ALEX: It's not who you are, but it's what you can accomplish that gives you the opportunities to move forward.
♪ ♪ HELEN: Growing up after World War II, there were so few Asians on screen that whenever one would appear, we would have this moment that I called an Asian sighting.
Somebody would yell, "Hey, there's somebody on TV."
And we would make a mad dash to the TV.
MAN: Murder, murder.
MAN 2: Murder?
Well here I come.
MAN 3: The princess?
HELEN: I would watch Bonanza, for example, and they had Hop Sing, who was the house boy, the step and fetch it.
HOP: Good morning, Mr. Cartwright.
You take enough food along?
CARTWRIGHT: Yes, everything was fine, Hop Sing.
RANDALL: You grow up and you think of yourself as a Cartwright, and you realize that everyone around you sees you as a Hop Sing.
JEFF: There were just no Asian American heroes.
Most of the roles were reiterating long-held stereotypes.
SAYONARA: Just a little lower, little lower Katsumi.
You always seem to be a little above it.
Yeah, yeah that's it.
HELEN: Asian women, just the compliant, passive, beautiful woman whose only purpose in life was to please a man.
And this was something, as an Asian girl, I rejected.
That's not me and I can't be that.
But it also added to that feeling like, "Then where am I, who am I?"
Because if this is what people expect me to be, I'm not.
So where do I really belong?
NARRATOR: The 1950s in America.
A decade of conformity and contradiction.
Underneath a growing prosperity, a simmering unease.
REPORTER: Duck and cover.
NARRATOR: And enemies within.
In an era when being different comes at a high price, Asians wonder if it would be better to keep their heads down, work hard, and never complain.
But even if they do, will they continue to be seen as outsiders?
In this time of promise and peril, Asian Americans navigate the Cold War, and take their first steps into American politics.
REPORTER: Back to New York from overseas comes one of the most amazing fighting outfits of the war.
It's the famous 442nd combat team, mainly Nisei Americans of Japanese descent.
Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race and ancestry.
Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart.
NARRATOR: Returning soldiers of color look at their country in a whole new light.
They fought for freedom abroad, and now expect equality at home.
Military families take advantage of the GI bill.
This way, Alex Fabros Senior hopes to lift his family into the middle class.
ALEX: My father told me that World War II for many of the Filipinos living in America, was an opportunity to fulfill many of the dreams that they had when they first came to America.
REPORTER: A particular group of soldiers in the United States Army has worked towards the day when their relatives in the Philippines will be delivered from the Japs.
ALEX: My father joined the first and second Filipino infantry regiments here in the United States in 1942.
Along with a lot of Filipinos here in America.
Some of them were fortunate, they became American citizens because they served.
After the war, we formed these new bonds and relationships.
We felt within this community a sense of protection of being able to succeed.
These Filipino women, the war brides generation of 1940s.
Those women had a different attitude about who we should be in America.
They used to tell us that there's all kinds of opportunity.
It's not who are but it's what you can accomplish and what you're able to do that gives you the opportunities to move forward.
I remember one time, I was at a doctor's office and all of the doctors were white.
And I asked my mother, I said, "Why aren't there any Filipino doctors?"
And she said, "They're waiting for you or your sister to become a doctor."
ERIKA: Americans start to see Asian Americans as being part of the American family.
We see some early press reports that are touting the success, the economic success, of Chinese and Japanese Americans in particular.
And the message is that these groups have overcome great adversity.
Some of the worst racial discrimination in the United States but had somehow risen up.
Had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to a place of economic security, to a place where they could give back to the United States.
They were now good Americans, they were the model minority.
REPORTER: A Chinese laundry in Portland, Maine and that magical, universal word, mother.
Mrs. Toy Len Goon, a widow, Chinese-born, carrying on in her husband's place.
Bringing up 8 children to be fine American citizens.
ANDREA: In 1952, my maternal grandmother, Toy Len Goon, was selected as US Mother of the Year.
I didn't even know what Mother of the Year was.
It's just something I remember hearing about from a very young age.
I knew it was important, I knew that she was proud of it, I knew that her children were proud of it.
NARRATOR: Mrs. Goon is the first Asian ever to be selected in the nationwide contest.
She is upheld as the symbol of motherhood and family, a pillar of American identity that even an Asian immigrant can represent.
ANDREA: My grandmother was nominated for Maine Mother of the Year by Clara Soule, who was an Americanization teacher.
She had visited the laundry many times in an attempt to get my grandmother to enroll in English language classes.
REPORTER: One son is in the Navy, another is an MIT graduate, still another is studying law.
All were encouraged to go to college.
Today she's honored by the National Golden Rule Foundation as American Mother for 1952.
With daughters Doris and Janet, she modestly takes her places in the limelight.
Giving her eight children all the credit for her success.
DORIS: The freedom to live in America, the word was that you could improve yourself.
For her children, she knew that being in America, they could aspire to something better if they worked at it, if they studied.
So education, that was the American dream.
If you're going to come to America, be an American.
♪ ♪ We had never even left home, you know.
We're on this whirlwind tour.
The gloves, the hats, the royal wave.
Okay, here we go.
This is the award that blew everybody away.
This has never left the family, you know.
It was the highlight of your grandma's life.
ANDREA: It was a momentous event.
But it was also, I think, stressful for my grandmother to be in that spotlight.
Even though she'd been in the United States for quite a few years by then, her English was not fluent.
And actually never became fluent.
JANET: She was very compliant, but she was a little overwhelmed.
DORIS: She was.
JANET: In fact, she was never the same after all of this.
ANDREA: What do you mean?
JANET: Well she always felt she had to live up to the name of being American Mother.
JANET: And I think as her kids, didn't we also feel pressure that way?
DORIS: Yes, right.
ANDREA: If you look at some of the newsreels, they also focus on the fact that her husband was in the US Army in World War I.
The fact that one of her sons was in the Navy.
And then her children are in these stereotypical model minority careers, doctor, lawyer, engineer.
It fits this narrative of Americanization and assimilation, where Chinese Americans become this "model minority."
These good immigrants living the American dream.
NARRATOR: The stereotype of exaggerated Asian American success makes it to the silver screen.
But behind the facade, things aren't always what they seem to be.
HELEN: I'm a child of the 1950s, one in a bazillion growing up in the suburbs of America.
There were lots of communities that had covenants that said Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans could not live there.
My parents had been looking for a place to raise their family and they were told, "We can't sell to you Orientals."
So they ended up in this mass-produced housing tract of Levittown.
Our Levittown was the third Levittown.
The first two were all white.
And somehow ours allowed my parents to move in.
We were the only Asian family in our New Jersey town.
We were the first and then a number of African American families moved in, too.
This was the integration of America.
But growing up in the suburbs at a time that was not long after the incarceration of Japanese Americans, World War II.
As kids, knowing that we're American, that we grew up eating hot dogs and apple pie.
We always knew that there was a difference.
If somebody said, "Go back where you came from."
That meant to go back to China, not to Levittown.
ALEX: People just did not want us in that neighborhood.
So one day I was coming home and this kid grabbed me and said "“We don't like Japs.
"” I say, "“I'm not a Jap, I'm a Filipino.
"” He said "“Doesn't matter.
You're not one of us.
"” There's always that term, you're not one of us.
HELEN: If you're the model minority, you keep your mouth shut.
You never complain.
You just march along, be a good soldier, be that good Asian.
ERIKA: A good Asian American in the 1950s is someone who identifies first as American and maybe the Asian part is something that you celebrate through occasional cooking, nice exotic clothes that you bring out on festive occasions but that is not at all the primary way that you identify yourself.
You're probably Christian.
You work hard, you believe in America, you are not asking for any handouts, you are not protesting.
In fact, you are very, very grateful for everything that the United States has given you.
This idea that Asian Americans could become so successful without any government intervention or government help is used not only to delegitimatize the real claims of discrimination by African Americans but also to create a wedge between these two groups.
NARRATOR: When Asian Americans overcome adversity, they are celebrated.
But when African Americans demand equality, they are vilified.
And for those who don't fit the mold of the good American, there is a price to pay.
ERIKA: The bad Asian American would be the critic, who is allying themselves with the African Americans and labor organizers, and activists, and communists, socialists, radicals and anarchists who threaten the United States, and everything the United States stands for.
NARRATOR: In 1949, the Chinese communist party, led by Mao Zedong, seizes control of China.
NARRATOR: A country that was America's ally in World War II is now the enemy.
A year later tensions erupt into war in Korea.
The Communist North Korea is backed by China and the Soviet Union.
While the US and the United Nations back the south.
REPORTER: What we are defending are not geographic borders, but a way of life.
DAVID: When the Chinese Revolution comes, there is this huge scare in America that the dominoes are falling.
REPORTER: Red China's battle plan.
Divide and encircle.
Conquer and enslave.
DAVID: And for Chinese Americans, it leads to the fear that Chinatown is a hotbed for communist subversion.
And this idea that Asian Americans are never fully loyal to America.
WINIFRED: In the US, Asians are always perpetual foreigners.
In the 1950s, it was not easy growing up Chinese.
My parents are first generation, from China.
Immigrant life was always a struggle.
My mother had to work.
We bought our first couch after my mother got her first paycheck.
Otherwise, we sat on these wooden crates.
Once we got a couch, we sat there and we took pictures.
My father did laundry work, as most Chinese people did.
My father studied Chinese classical poetry in China.
When you read his poem about his village, you can smell the scent of the flowers.
You can see that he missed his hometown.
When he wrote about working in the laundry and about immigrants coming to America, really very happy and then finding out that this is what life is really like.
You really feel it.
It all came out in the writing.
And this is how he expressed himself.
NARRATOR: Chinese hand laundries become as common as hot dog stands and Checker Cabs.
Chinese men are shut out of other jobs, but washing and ironing are no threat to white male labor.
There are over 3,500 Chinese hand laundries in New York alone.
The workers form their own support organization to advocate for the whole community.
WINIFRED: The Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance started a newspaper called the "China Daily News".
And that paper reported news from China.
And when the "China Daily News" continued to report even after the communist revolution, it became branded as a communist paper.
When Mao Zedong stood at Tiananmen Square and declared the Chinese people have stood up, we were proud that he kicked out all the Westerners.
We got our land back.
And so a lot of us were for Mao Zedong, for what he did because he gave an image of a stronger China.
It did not make us communist.
MAN: What is the exact number of communists or subversives that are loose today?
MAN 2: Are you a member of the communist party?
MAN 3: We can expect it to spread.
MAN 2: Have you ever been a member of the communist party?
MAN: Nothing could be more alarming.
HELEN: In the 1950s, everybody was trying to fit in because of the McCarthy period.
If you were different in any way, you could lose your job and your career and your livelihood.
WOMAN: They are enemies, they are not Americans.
WOMAN 2: Yes, they're traitors to America.
MAN: They're homosexuals!
MAN 2: They're communist, they're communist!
HELEN: The House of Unamerican Activities Committee targeted suspected homosexuals.
They said if you were gay, you were a potential security threat to America.
For me as an Asian American girl, who later, would come out as a lesbian; I can't even imagine what it felt like.
MAN: Calling the House of Unamerican Activities Committee to order, Chairman Jay Parnell Thomas of New Jersey opens an inquiry into possible Communist penetration of the Hollywood film industry.
DAVID: In Hollywood, it leads to the Hollywood black list and the whole period of naming names of suspected Communists in Hollywood.
DISNEY: I believe at that time that Mr. Sorel was a communist because of all the things that I had heard.
ROBERT: If I had my way about it, they'd all be sent back to Russia or some other unpleasant place.
(applause) HELEN: With the pervasiveness of this fear of communism, being Chinese made you an automatic suspect.
My father was very fluent in English and a very opinionated man.
Really disagreed with the way US-China relations were going.
And he would write letters to the editor.
And I think that's what attracted the FBI.
There we were living in our New Jersey development and the FBI visited all of our neighbors, probably my school, asked people, you know, "What does he do?
Have you noticed anything suspicious?"
And so I knew this because our neighbor kids, who we played with, would say, "And what does your father do?
The FBI was here."
We were pretty much perceived as the enemy.
NARRATOR: The editor of the "China Daily News", Eugene Moy, is convicted of accepting ad revenue from a Chinese bank.
He denounces the verdict, calling it an attack on freedom of the press.
Moy is sentenced to one year in prison and dies shortly after his release.
WINIFRED: Pretty much anyone who subscribed to the "China Daily News", anyone who wrote for it or had anything to do with it was suspected.
My father wrote poetry for the "China Daily News" and he wrote about his homeland, he wrote about life in America.
This was all seen as communist thinking, and so that got us in trouble because my father was also a paper son.
NAYAN: The paper son phenomena was this whole system of people taking new identities in order to be able to immigrate into the United States successfully.
NARRATOR: It started in 1882, when the Exclusion Act banned working class Chinese men and women from legally immigrating to the US.
A person buys a fake birth certificate claiming to be the child of a Chinese American citizen.
This makes them a "“paper son or daughter"” with a new name, and a chance in America.
For over 80 years the majority of Chinese immigrants, including Winifred's father, enter the country this way.
WINIFRED: My father paid 1,900 for the paper.
And he came to the East Coast rather than the West Coast simply because his paper father was also on the East Coast.
NARRATOR: Winifred's father, whose real name is Lai Bing Chan, must now live as Tung Pok Chin.
In order to stay in the US, he must live a lie.
NAYAN: The paper son phenomena really blew up in the 1950s.
ERIKA: The US State Department and the FBI begin an investigation into Chinese American communities and it's inextricably connected to the record of paper migration, of using fraudulent identities.
"How do we know that those people are not communist spies?"
And they offer a rotten deal to Chinese American communities, essentially they say, "If you come clean with us and give us the history of your illegal immigration activities, we will regularize your immigration status."
The program came to be called the "Confession Program".
NAYAN: People felt anxiety, shame, irrespective of whatever they had done and endeavored or created in the United States, for decades and decades.
People ratting on their friends.
That uncertainty was really part of their lives.
WINIFRED: I was about six or seven.
It was after school, we finished our homework.
And we sat down with our Chinese Confucius poetry, calligraphy.
I remember two men walking up and they did not look like customers, they were very well dressed.
I didn't know they were FBI men.
They spoke very nicely to me, asking me what my name was and what my father's name was.
And of course, his name was Tung Pok Chin.
That's the name on the paper.
But they always try to get him to say his real name, Lai Ping Chen, who wrote for a certain newspaper.
Once we had those FBI visits, my father hung up a picture of him being sworn in to the Navy.
We subscribed to "Life" magazine.
We tried very much to make our family look like all American families.
There were arguments about confession that I remember.
My mother wanted to confess so that she could bring her family over.
But people mistrusted the Confessions Program.
And my own father did not confess.
There was one night when I woke up and I saw my parents burning paper.
And I asked what was going on.
And my father simply said, "It's chilly, there's no heat coming up.
We're just making a little fire to warm our hands."
And he told me, "Just go to the bathroom, go back to sleep."
He was burning his own poetry.
DAVID: All these accusations against Chinese Americans didn't actually lead to any discovery of real subversive activity.
It was terrorism.
It was government terrorism in order to intimidate a community.
NARRATOR: The relentless persecution traumatizes the Chinese community.
Tens of thousands are ensnared, until the Chinese Confessions Program is terminated in 1966.
For years after, a generation of Chinese Americans steers clear of politics, their fear of the government keeps them silent.
Yet even as these paper sons and daughters remain in the shadows, they continue to strengthen their communities and build a future for themselves and their families.
♪ ♪ MAN: Far out across the blue Pacific, lie Hawaii's enchanted isles.
A land of green valleys, sheltered by friendly hills.
But it is also America's most important outpost, the crossroads of the pacific.
NARRATOR: Beyond its image as a popular tourist destination, Hawaii is a place where Asian America's past meets its future.
By the 1950s, Asians are the territory's majority population.
Unlike the mainland, the sheer number of Asians in Hawaii gives them a powerful voice.
ELLEN: Hawaii was formerly an independent kingdom.
In the nineteenth century, Europeans as well as Americans took interest in Hawaii as a potential for profit, essentially.
They ended up running these big sugar plantations and recruiting workers from all over Asia and other parts of the world.
And so by the early part of the twentieth century, Hawaiian society was minority white, or haole as they called it, the people in power, and majority Asian, and certainly native Hawaiians.
JEFF: There's a huge gap between the reality of the haole aristocracy who are extracting the profits and the working class that's trying to figure out how to survive on a day-to-day type of basis.
NARRATOR: The Hawaiian kingdom had been made a colony of the US.
Asians in Hawaii benefit from that colonial economy, yet they're frustrated by their lack of political power.
JEFF: My family is of Chinese and native Hawaiian ancestry.
So you have Chinese and Hawaiians and Portuguese, Japanese, Filipinos, other Pacific Islanders, Samoans, folks building these bonds, working with each other, trading with each other, sharing with each other, living together.
After the war, these massive island-wide strikes of tens of thousands of workers happen.
And they're able to occur because folks have now, for two generations, have been working with each other, intermarrying.
And so the majority, through these strikes, begin to find ballot box success in the late 1940s.
And finally in 1954, the state legislature is completely turned over from being haoles and Republicans to being Democrats representing the working class majority.
NARRATOR: What started as a labor movement culminates in a political revolution in 1954.
It's the first time Asians have a decisive voice in American politics.
ELLEN: We start to see the shift in Hawaii, right?
And the kind of political power to a younger, largely Asian American cohort in the territorial government and then the state government.
PATSY: Women have a tremendous responsibility to help shape the future of America, to help decide policies that will affect the course of our history.
And women need to be represented.
NARRATOR: Patsy Mink emerges in the 1950s as a key political figure.
She was born on Maui, the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants.
She wanted to be a doctor, but few medical schools would accept women.
GWENDOLYN: My mother went on to University of Chicago for law school.
She was accepted as a foreign student.
I'm sure, I mean some combination of being Asian American and being from Hawaii, two categories that people didn't really know what to do with.
WU: After she graduated from law school in the early 1950s, she couldn't find a job.
She was a woman, she was Asian American, she was also the mother of a young child.
And so she worked in the library and she worked in the department store.
She eventually came back to Hawaii, hoping to find more economic opportunities.
But again, no one would hire her.
So she ended up just hanging out a sign at her parent's storefront and just providing legal services to people who were willing to work with her.
Her first client paid her with a fish.
So it gives you a sense of the type of clients that she, she worked for.
GWENDOLYN: She was a supporter of candidates in 1954 as the Democrats tried to break through.
And after being a fantastic helper of candidates, she thought, "I can do this.
I can run."
That was the beginning of her public life, her political life.
PATSY: Here out in the Pacific, there are half a million American citizens who are waiting for the action of Congress.
It's no longer a question of pleading for statehood, to my mind, it's a question of rising in indignation at the silence of the Congress of the United States has repeatedly met our request for statehood.
O. VINCENT: America needs friends in this grim and tight and ugly world.
America needs friends in the Orient in order to fortify and strengthen its foreign policy.
Make us a state and America will find a door to the Orient open that it's never been able to open before.
ELLEN: And certainly discussions about Hawaii and how all of these examples of good Asians doing well would really help the United States win the Cold War.
And that idea then also became one of the main arguments for admitting the territory of Hawaii to statehood.
REPORTER: Hawaii bids farewell to 40 years of frustration and failure in attempts to win statehood and joyously greets its new status as a full-fledged member of the union, it's 50th state.
Perhaps most important of all, Hawaiian statehood gives the lie to communist charges of American colonialism.
A big day, with a long time coming, which means that much more to celebrate.
NARRATOR: But in the drive for statehood, Asian Americans overlook the fact that Hawaii was once a sovereign nation.
Native Hawaiian claims for self-rule are dismissed or completely ignored.
JEFF: 1959 in some ways is seen as a great victory, maybe if you look at it from an Asian American point of view.
But from a native Hawaiian point of view, it's the beginning of a series of questions.
The Philippines became independent, Puerto Rico remained a territory.
So my father's ballot really only had one question, which was, "Should Hawaii become a state of the United States of America?"
They were never an option to consider whether Hawaii should be able to return to a state of independence as an independent nation, which it had been before it was forcibly colonized by the US.
ELLEN: One of the arguments against Hawaii statehood was often the threat that we would end up with a Senator Watanabe in, you know, in Congress, how would you like that?
This was unfathomable to many Americans.
REPORTER: Judge Saund, you are the only Indo and the only Asian ever to have sat in the Congress of the United States.
NARRATOR: Until the election of Dalip Singh Saund in California in 1956, no Asian American has ever served in the US Congress.
DALIP: When I became a citizen of the United States on December 16th, 1949, it was my ambition to run for public office.
Everyone thought that I had no chance.
But I had faith in the American sense of justice and fair play.
NARRATOR: Building on Congressman Saund's success, Asian Americans in Hawaii are poised to elect a new generation of political leaders.
REPORTER: From Honolulu to Hilo, Hawaii is swept by campaign fever.
It's the former territory's first election as a state.
With 81 offices open and hotly contested, from the legislature up to the governorship, two seats in the Senate and one in Congress.
For Senate seat A, Hiram Fong and Frank Fasi.
Seat B, Daniel Inouye and Dr. Charles Silva.
ELLEN: There are a lot of younger, especially Japanese Americans, who had come of age and fought in World War II.
The most prominent individual would be Danial Inouye.
DANIEL: Many of us, Americans of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Puerto Rican ancestry and many of us did our share in fighting for democracy.
ELLEN: He grew up in what he called the slums of Honolulu and he famously lost his right arm fighting for the United States.
JANE: In the case of Hiram Fong, it's a rags to riches story.
Hiram Fong is the seventh child of plantation workers who immigrated from China.
They are poor.
He grows up and somehow makes his way to Harvard Law School, where he graduates, returns to the islands.
And in the course of the next few years, becomes a self-made millionaire.
ELLEN: Both Fong and Inouye really fashion themselves as, as good Americans.
WU: When Hawaii became a state, Patsy Mink wanted to run for federal office.
She wanted to become the first Asian American woman to go into the House of Representatives.
But the Democratic political bosses wanted Daniel Inouye to fill that role.
And Inouye, at the time, was running for the Senate.
But he agreed that he would move his ambitions further down the line and run for the house.
And the same bosses told Patsy Mink, "“You should not be running.
You would not get support from us.
"” And she said, "I'm going to do it anyway.
I believe this is my political right, I've been working to build the Democratic party and I have the right to run."
REPORTER: Results generally reflect Hawaii's melting pot of varied races and religions.
Elected to Congress the first Japanese American ever, Daniel Inouye, an outstanding war hero.
And the first Asian ever elected to the Senate, Hiram Fong, Chinese.
NARRATOR: With the election of Republican Hiram Fong and Democrat Daniel Inouye, Hawaii becomes the first and only state to ever send a majority Asian delegation to the US Congress.
WU: She lost very badly.
And it's very clear that sexism played a key role.
People who voted for Inouye wrote to Mink to say, "I didn't vote for you because you're not a man.
I know that he's going to be able to go to Congress and he's going to be able to engage these backroom deals because he's a man."
For her to be basically stabbed in the back by the Democratic party, the party that she helped to build, was really emotionally devastating for her.
But she regrouped.
CONKITE: And down there on the floor, addressing the convention in support of the platform committee recommendation on civil rights is Mrs.
Patsy Takemoto Mink.
Let's listen to her.
PATSY: Depends upon your conscious and conviction.
NARRATOR: In the back rooms of the convention, Southern senators push to water down the civil rights platform.
Patsy Mink takes the room by storm in a speech that urges delegates not to compromise.
Her presence sends a bold message, that civil rights matters to all Americans, including Asian Americans.
PATSY: I urge you to support the platform as written by your platform committee.
And to give this nation one of the greatest weapons of peace, the winning of the respect and admiration of the entire world.
Thank you very much.
NARRATOR: The delegates vote overwhelmingly to stand their ground on civil rights.
In 1964, Patsy Mink takes another long shot run for Congress, once again without the blessing of the party leadership.
With an all-volunteer staff and her husband John as her campaign manager, this time... she wins.
GWENDOLYN: When my mother was elected in 1964, there were only 11 women in the House of Representatives.
And she was the first and only woman of color ever elected at that point to the US Congress.
TAMMY: When I was a student in Hawaii, I was on food stamps and I was a kid who had to work two jobs just to be able to get through college.
And she looked out for those folks, she looked out for minorities and she looked out for women.
You know, you walk around these halls, she was short, she was easy to dismiss.
But she just wouldn't let them dismiss her.
What she did for women's rights, and equal rights with Title IX, a half century ago is a remarkable achievement.
Not just for Asian Americans, not just for women, not just for people from Hawaii, but for all Americans.
MAN: Freedom now a movement, hear me.
We are requesting all citizens to move into Washington.
We are pushing for jobs, housing, desegregated schools.
Please join, go to Washington.
KING: Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
NARRATOR: The Civil Rights movement is breaking down barriers to equality for all people of color.
A small but growing number of Asian Americans join the fight.
The drive for equality improves the lives of Asians in unexpected ways.
REPORTER: They filed quietly, somewhat hesitatingly from the belly of a chartered airliner at San Francisco airport one recent morning.
It began in 1965 when Congress abolished the policy excluding Oriental immigration.
JANE: Asian exclusion in the United States dominates a lot of Asian American history.
US Congress passes a series of laws that begin with the Chinese but gradually expand to include and bar all Asians from immigration and naturalization in 1924.
The period of exclusion repeal starts with the '43 repeal of the Chinese Exclusion laws and it ends in the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act.
It was monumental because it replaced the national origins quota system, which had been in effect since 1924.
And it replaces it with a system of preferences.
First is the family reunification clause.
And the second are preferences given to skilled immigrants who have certain kinds of degrees or who work in fields that the United States Department of Labor deems understaffed in the United States.
ERIKA: The argument is well, the United States is still mostly of European American descent, and so the people who will be able to come in are going to be from Europe.
Hiram Fong, senator from Hawaii, says before Congress not to worry that Asians will not be coming in large numbers.
It's the right thing to do to pass this immigration law, to ban discrimination in immigration, but don't worry just because we do that doesn't mean that floods and floods and hordes of Asians are going to come over.
What we know is that the opposite happened.
That because of various reasons, Europeans didn't feel the need to come to the United States.
And the exact opposite of what lawmakers wanted happened.
By the early 21st century, 80% of immigrants coming to the United States were either from Latin America or from Asia.
JOHNSON: And this measure that we sign today will really make us truer to ourselves both as a country and as a people.
This bill says simply that from this day forward, those wishing to immigrate to America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationships to those already here.
NARRATOR: With the preference for skilled workers, the immigration act tips the scales in favor of highly educated Asians and their families.
JANE: So in my family's case, my mother was a nurse trained in South Korea.
My mother was actually the one who got a visa under the '65 immigration act.
And it's only because of her that my father and then my grandparents and then my aunts and my uncles were able to enter the United States over the next few decades.
For most of American history, Asians were not able to even claim US citizenship.
So that's why when folks talk about Asian American civil rights, they're often talking about immigration and naturalization rights.
The majority of Asian Americans today are foreign born.
And so that has changed kind of the way that people think of Asian America.
And the '65 immigration act does, in fact, change the demographics of Asian America.
NARRATOR: The immigration act also transforms the nation.
The population of Asian Americans doubles in just ten years.
A new generation is ready to break the mold.
JEFF: The culture is waiting for this moment to shift on its axis.
We needed to have at that particular moment somebody who epitomizes a search for truth for justice.
We needed somebody who was going to stand up for us.
LEE: My last name is Lee, Bruce Lee.
I was born in San Francisco, 1940.
I am 24 right now.
INTERVIEWER: And you work in motion pictures in Hong Kong?
LEE: Yes, since I was around six years old.
There is the finger jab, there is the punch, there the back fist and then low.
He's kind of worried.
RANDALL: I first saw a Bruce Lee movie when I was a kid, super young.
And I remember just being mesmerized by this guy and I don't think it was '‘cause he was Asian because he had an Asian face.
It was just because he just had so much charisma and confidence.
I was obsessed with him.
I'd watch his movies over and over again.
And afterwards I'd want to fight my brother, you know, because I wanted to be him.
JEFF: Before Bruce Lee, there were just no Asian American heroes.
LEE: Boards don't hit back.
JEFF: For Asian Americans, there was a sense of finally.
Finally, there's somebody up on the screen who is as strong as we are.
Somebody that embodies the kind of power we know that we're capable of.
HELEN: When I went to college in the 1970s, I began to hear about people like Patsy Mink.
And to see that, gosh, there really are these amazing Asian American women who were bad ass women really making a change.
(chanting) PATSY: We're working on it.
We're just at the very beginning stages, I think, of this whole movement to reawaken the sense of equality in this country.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Asians have been held up as the very best Americans.
They've been condemned as the very worst.
Now, Asian Americans are ready to step out of the shadows, and celebrate who they truly are.
and celebrate who they truly are.
CROWD: Bring our brothers home.
DAN: We had so many returning Vietnam veterans who were telling us the truth about what was going on.
It was a stunning moment.
BRENDA: This incredible ground-swell that was just enveloping the country.
ALEX: They create the United Farm Workers and they became the west coast civil rights movement.
If a lot of people put their mind to it, they can win.
NOBUKO: It was like a genie coming out of the bottle, you couldn't put us back in.
♪ ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: To order Asian Americans on DVD, visit ShopPBS.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.