The History of the Chinese American Citizen Alliance

Founded in 1895 in San Francisco, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance has over 100 years of history of continuous existence serving in a dual role as a social club and as a national non-partisan activist for Chinese American empowerment and community service. The Alliance was originally conceived as a social club. It was to be a place for self-development by the earliest native-born American citizens of Chinese ancestry. In vogue with the times, they formed their organization on the model of a fraternal brotherhood, to which they were denied entry because of their ethnic background. During the era of the harshest anti-Chinese sentiments then prevalent in California, the desire of these young citizens to organize was a daring move. Today sixteen Local Lodges from coast-to-coast make up the nationwide C.A.C.A. family.

Our members, men and women of Chinese heritage, work together with friends to realize the Alliance’s actions in community improvement and youth development. The projects of each Local Lodge differ depending on local interests and needs. They range from staging cultural festivals to developing senior housing, to sponsoring museums, to helping the needy, and to the public celebration of the ever-popular Chinese New Year, to name a few. Realizing that the major promise of the future is in the young, all Lodges participate in the Alliance’s National Project of developing youth leadership. National center prieces for this program include scholarships, the annual English essay contests, and Asian Students in Action conferences.

The historical legacy of the Alliance begins almost at the inception of that first pioneering club. The San Francisco community promptly looked to these talented, English-fluent citizens as their new leaders to work with the external community in combating the pressures of a constantly suffocating discrimination. Thus, very early in the group’s existence, the pattern was cast for one of the Alliance’s most important and enduring missions, defense of the civil rights and immigration rights of Chinese Americans and the struggle against stereotyping, ethnic discrimination and racial profiling.

Historically, scholars now generally agree that the most significant of the Alliance’s actions was its quarter century-long national fight to allow the immigration of Chinese wives of Chinese American men, which was successfully accomplished in 1947. National membership in the Alliance soared prior to and after World War II because of the Alliance’s advocacy. The need for a Chinese American voice led to the founding of the first national Chinese American newspaper, The Chinese Times, which continued in operation for over 60 years. During this period, the Alliance also joined in pushing for the 1943 repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Acts and laid crucial groundwork for the expansion of post World War II immigration quotas. More recently, the Alliance actively participated in the national advocacy for justice and fair play for Dr. Wen Ho Lee.