AAPI Legal Resources: A Beginning

Teaching Race, Ethnicity, and Politics: Asian American, Pacific Islanders Inclusive Teaching Resources

Michelle D. Deardorff, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

As our legal system in the United States is based on common law, our judiciary has depended on precedent to frame their decision making. The centrality of race-based slavery in the United States has meant that much of our legal development surrounding race and ethnicity has been framed understandably around the African-American experience. Many of the seminal cases taught in undergraduate courses are Supreme Court decisions addressing issues of slavery, emancipation, segregation, voting, housing, and employment discrimination through African American challenges to the law. One consequence of this is that cases dealing with other races/ethnicities are decided in the federal and state courts and often are not integrated as part of the legal canon.

For AAPI people, this means that outside of the Japanese internment cases, the Chinese Exclusion laws, and the Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886) case, students in undergraduate law classes are not exposed to the impact that the AAPI experience has had on American law. By engaging with lower federal court and state court cases impacting AAPI peoples, our legal process and the relationship between race and law gains greater nuance and clarity. This collection may help transform our understanding not only of how law works, but the relationship between law and the construction of racial identity. These cases are not only historical, but also may engage our current debates over the scope and impact of law on current policy debates—such as on immigration, reparations, citizenship, private action, and identity.


Hirata, Lucie Cheng. 1979. “Free, indentured, enslaved: Chinese prostitutes in nineteenth century America.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5(1): 3-29.

Holder, Charles Frederick. 1987. “Chinese slavery in America.” The North American Review, 165 (490): 288-294.

Siler, Julia Flynn. 2019. The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco Chinatown, Knopf Publishing.


Tape v. Hurley, 66 Cal. 473 (1885) 

AAPI Civil Rights Heroes—Mamie Tape

Pruitt, Sarah. 2021. “The 8-Year-Old Chinese American Girl Who Helped Desegregate Schools—in 1885” History.com

Gong Lum v. Rice, 275 U.S. 78 (1927)

Berard, Adrienne. 2016. Water Tossing Over Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South. Boston: Beacon Press.

Briones, Matthew M. 2013. Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America. Princeton University Press.

Citizenship and Identity

Mamdani, Mahmood. 2020. Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities. Belknap Press.

Kurashice, Lon. 2020. The Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. The University of North Carolina Press.

Lew-Williams, Beth. 2018. The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America. Harvard University Press.

McClain, Charles J. 1994. In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle against Discrimination in Nineteenth Century America. University of Berkley Press.

Takiki, Ronald. [1974] 1990. Iron Cages: Race and Culture in the 19th Century. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Wong, Edlie L. 2015. Racial Reconstruction: Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship. New York University Press.

Wunder, John R. and Liping Zhu. 2018. Gold Mountain Turned to Dust: Essays on the Legal History of the Chinese in the Nineteenth-Century American West. University of New Mexico Press.

Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 188 U.S. 356 (1886)

Bernstein, David E. 2008. “Revisiting Yick Wo v. Hopkins.” University of Illinois Law Review: 1393.

Chin, Gabriel J. 2008. “Unexplainable on grounds of race: doubts about Yick Wo.” University of Illinois Law Review: 1359.

Failinger, Marie A., 2011. “Yick Wo at 125: four simple lessons for the contemporary Supreme Court.” Michigan Journal of Race & Law: 217.

Classroom documentary: Annenberg Classroom

Chae Chan Ping v. U.S., 130 U.S. 581 (1889) (The Chinese Exclusion Cases)

Lee, Erika. 2004. At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. The University of North Carolina Press.

United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)

Nackenoff, Carol and Julie Novkov. 2022. American by Birth: Wong Kim Ark and the Battle for Citizenship. University Press of Kansas (abridged); 2021 (unabridged)

United States v. Ju Toy, 198 U.S. 253 (1905)

Salyer, Lucy E. 1995. Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law. University of North Carolina Press.

United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 U.S. 203 (1923)

De La Garza, Amanda. 2016. Doctorji: The Life, Teachings, and Legacy of Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind. ‎ Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind Spiritual Science Foundation.

In Re Ah Yup, 5 Sawy. 155, Circuit Court, D. Cal (1878)

Sohoni, Deenesh. 2007. “Unsuitable suitors: Anti‐miscegenation laws, naturalization laws, and the construction of Asian identities.” Law & Society Review 41.3: 587-618.

Internment and Rule of Law

Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944)

Gudridge, Patrick O. 2003. “Remember Endo?” Harvard Law Review 116(7): 1933-1970.

Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943)

Hirabayashi, Gordon K. and James A. Hirabayashi, et al. 2014. A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States. University of Washington Press.

Korematsu v. U.S., 323 U.S. 214 (1944)

Bannai, Lorraine K. 2015. Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice. University of Washington Press.

Classroom Documentary: Annenberg Classroom “Korematsu and Civil Liberties”

Hirabayashi v. United States, 828 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1987)

Symposium on U.S. v. Hirabayashi, sponsored by The Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law in February 2012. Special edition of Social Justice 11 (1) 2012.

Daniels, Roger. 2013. The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War. University Press of Kansas.

Irons, Peter. 1993. Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-Amendment Internment Cases. University of California Press.

Yamamoto, Eric K. 2018. In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security. Oxford University Press.

Yamamoto, Eric K., Lorraine Bannai, Margaret Chon. 2020. Race, Rights, and National Security: Law and Japanese American Incarceration. Aspen Press.

Insular Cases—Territory Statehood—American Samoa

Fitisemanu v. United States (1 F.4th 862, 10th Cir, 2021) appealed to US Supreme Court https://www.equalrightsnow.org/fitisemanu

Art and Law

Chambers-Letson, Joshua. 2013. A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America. New York University Press.

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