Date of Graduation

Spring 5-19-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International and Multicultural Education (IME)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education (IME)

First Advisor

David Donahue


Asian Americans occupy a contradictory position in the American educational landscape, at once glorified for their academic success and vilified for their “invasion” of White academic spaces. This narrative first took root in the 19th century, when the California Supreme Court ruled in the 1885 case Tape v. Hurley that Chinese American youth had a right to public education. Simultaneously, the state legislature declared that Chinese Americans must be educated in separate facilities from Whites. The first segregated “Oriental school” opened in San Francisco Chinatown that year. This study explores the oft-erased history of Asian American school segregation in San Francisco and the nearby Sacramento Delta through twelve oral history interviews with Chinese American alumni of Oriental schools. Put into conversation with each other, their oral histories show how racism permeated their schooling experiences, exemplified by school demographics, English-only rules, and student-teacher dynamics. Narrators’ nuanced memories and emotions about their Oriental school experiences further reveal the deep personal impact of segregation. Drawing on these firsthand accounts, and informed by Orientalism and racial triangulation theory, I argue that Oriental schools are an essential case study for understanding how the U.S. educational system creates and reinforces Asian American racial identities.