University of Minnesota
Immigration History Research Center

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Erika Lee

Erika Lee

Immigration History Rsrch Ctr Room 311 AnderLib 7921N 222 21st Ave S


Erika Lee is an American historian, Director of the Immigration History Research Center, and the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History at the University of Minnesota. Her scholarly specialties include migration, race and ethnicity; Asian Americans; transnational U.S. history; and immigration law and public policy. She has been awarded numerous national and university fellowships and awards for her research, teaching, and leadership. She is the author or co-author of the award winning books Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, (with Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, 2010) and At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (University of North Carolina Press, 2003) as well as many articles on immigration law and Asian American immigration. She is an active public scholar and has been an invited speaker at universities, historical societies, and community organizations around the U.S. and internationally. She is currently finishing a book titled Chasing Dreams: A History of Asian Americans from 1492 to the Present, to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2015.


  • Migration, Race, and Ethnicity
  • Asian Americans
  • 20th-century United States
  • Law and Public Policy

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: History, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, 1998.
  • M.A.: History, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, 1993.
  • B.A.: History and Cross-Cultural Studies, Tufts University, Medford, MA, 1991.


  • Chasing Dreams: A History of Asian Americans from 1492 to the Present. Lee, Erika, Simon & Schuster, Author, 2015.
  • The “˜Yellow Peril’ in the United States and Peru: A Transnational History of Japanese Exclusion, 1920s-World War Two: Lee, Erika, Camilla Fojas and Rudy Guevera, University of Nebraska Press, Transnational Crossroads: Remapping the Americas and the Pacific, 2012.
  • Lee, Erika, Judy Yung. Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. Oxford University Press, 2010. Link
  • Lee, Erika. "Asian American Studies in the Midwest: New Questions, Approaches, and Communities." Journal of Asian American Studies 12 (2009): 247-273.
  • Lee, Erika. "Wong Kim Ark v. United States: Immigration, Race, and Citizenship." Race Law Stories (2008): 89-109.
  • Lee, Erika. "The "Yellow Peril" and Asian Exclusion in the Americas." Pacific Historical Review 76:4 (2007)
  • Lee, Erika. "Hemispheric Orientalism and the 1907 Race Riots on the Pacific Coast." Amerasia Journal 33:2 (2007)
  • Lee, Erika. "A Nation of Immigrants / A Gatekeeping Nation: American Immigration Law and Policy, 1875-Present." A Companion to American Immigration History (2006)
  • Lee, Erika. "The Balancing Act: Work, Family, and the Need for Institutional Change in the Academy." Journal of Women's History 18:1 (2006)
  • Lee, Erika. "Orientalisms in the Americas: A Hemispheric Approach to Asian American History." Journal of Asian American Studies (2005)
  • Lee, Erika, Naoko Shibusawa. "What is Transnational Asian American History?." Journal of Asian American Studies 2005
  • Lee, Erika. "Defying Exclusion: Chinese Immigrants and Their Strategies During the Exclusion Era." Between China and America: The Trans-Pacific Flow of People, Goods, and Ideas (2005)
  • Lee, Erika. "American Gatekeeping: Race and Immigration Law in the Twentieth Century." Not Just Black and White: Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity, Then to Now (2004)
  • At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943: Lee, Erika, University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Link Image
  • Lee, Erika. "Exclusion Acts: Chinese Women During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943." Asian/Pacific Islander American Women: A Historical Anthology (2003)
  • Lee, Erika. "Enforcing the Borders: Chinese Exclusion along the U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico, 1882–1924." Journal of American History (2002)
  • Lee, Erika. "The Example of Chinese Exclusion: Race, Immigration, and American Gatekeeping, 1882-1924." Journal of American Ethnic History 21:3
  • Lee, Erika. "Immigrants and Immigration Law: A State of the Field Assessment." Journal of American Ethnic History 18(4) (1999): 85-114.

Research Activities

  • Asian Americas: Asian Immigration and the Making of the Americas, 1565 to the Present
  • Immigration History on Angel Island: funded research, Fesler-Lampert Professorship in the Public Humanities, 2005-2010
  • Asian Immigration and Exclusion in the Americas, 1880-1945: funded research, McKnight Land Grant Professorship, McKnight Presidential Fellowship, 2003 - 2007
  • Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943: funded research, International Migration Program, Social Science Research Council, 2000 - 2001

Professional Activities

  • Co-chair, Program Committee: 2013 Organization of American Historians National Conference , 2011
  • Director, Asian American Studies Program, University of Minnesota: 2009 - present
  • Chair, History Book Prize Committee: Association of Asian American Studies , 2007
  • Member: Faculty Student Advisory Board, Immigration History Research Center , 2005 - 2007
  • Director, Undergraduate Studies, Department of History: 2003-2004 - 2005-2006
  • Elected Member: Advisory Committee, Department of History , 1999 - 2006
  • Member: Theodore Saloutos Book Prize Committee, Immigration and Ethnic History Society , 2000 - 2003
  • Fellow: International Migration Program of the Social Science Research Council , 2000 - 2001
  • Board Member: Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation , 1997 - 1998
  • Fellow: Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley , 1996 - 1997

Outreach Activities

  • Invited Speaker, Harvard University, Organization of American Historians, Association for Asian American Studies, Hamline University, Macalester College: 2013 - 2014
  • Invited Speaker, National Central University (Taiwan), Academia Sinica (Taiwan), National Taiwan Normal University, University of Toronto, UC Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee: 2012-2013
  • Invited Speaker, National Archives, Ohio State University, University of Oregon: 2012 - 2012
  • Invited Speaker, Brown University, Washington University, Rice University, University of Toronto, New York University, Museum of Chinese in the Americas, Minnesota Historical Society, Pennsylvania State University: 2011 - 2011
  • Invited Speaker, Smithsonian Museum, California Historical Society, San Diego Historical Society, Seattle Town Hall, Massachusetts Historical Society, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, KQED Radio (San Francisco): 2010 - 2010
  • Invited Guest: "Immigration Reform," Mid-Morning, Minnesota Public Radio, 2007
  • Invited Speaker: "Nation of Immigrants?" College of Liberal Arts Dialogues in Diversity, 2007
  • Invited Speaker: Asian American and Asian Canadian Histories, "Everybody Reads" Program, Portland Public Library, 2007
  • Invited Speaker: - " How Did We Get Here? The History of Immigration in Minnesota," Minnesota State Demographic Center, 2007
  • Keynote Speaker: "Asian Americans and the Current Debate over Immigration," Minnesota State University, Mankato, 2006
  • Invited Speaker: Oral History Methodology," "Theories of Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.," "Immigration History," "Immigration Debates - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives," Historians in the Schools (St. Paul Public Schools), 2006
  • Invited Speaker: Policies Affecting the Immigrant Experience in Minnesota Conference, Macalester College, 2003
  • Member, Advisory Committee: "Open House" Roundtable/National Endowment for the Humanities Planning Session, Minnesota Historical Society, 2002 - 2003
  • Historical Consultant: "Becoming American: The Chinese Experience in America" (produced by Bill Moyers, aired on PBS), 2002 - 2003


  • United States State Department Speaker and Specialist Grant, 2012
  • Sara Evans Faculty Woman Scholar/Leader Award in the Humanities, Arts, and Sciences, 2012
  • College of Liberal Arts "Red" Motley Teaching Award, University of Minnesota, 2011
  • Caughey Western History Association Award for the best book in Western History (Angel Island), 2010
  • Angel Island Awarded the Adult Non-Fiction Award, American Librarians Association, Asian Pacific American Caucus , 2010
  • Angel Island selected as a "Best Book of 2010" by the San Francisco Chronicle, 2010
  • "Honorable Mention," History Book Award, Association for Asian American Studies, 2010 - 2010
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title for Angel Island, 2010
  • Faculty Residential Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Minnesota, September, 2010 - December, 2010
  • Fesler-Lampert Professorship in the Public Humanities, 2007 - 2008
  • McKnight Presidential Fellowship, 2004 - 2007
  • Association of Asian American Studies History Book Award (At America's Gates), 2005
  • McKnight Land Grant Professorship, 2003 - 2005
  • Theodore Saloutos Prize for the Best Book in Immigration Studies (At America's Gates), 2003
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title for At America's Gates, 2003

Courses Taught

  • Hist 3862: Immigration History
  • Hist 3862: American Immigration History
  • Hist 3877 - Asian American History, 1850-Present
  • Hist 3875W - Comparative Race and Ethnicity in US History
  • Nation of Immigrants? Immigration and American Society and Politics
  • Hist 4961: Major Paper Seminar
  • Hist 5877: Asian American History (graduate seminar)
  • AAS 1101: Imagining Asian America
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