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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 Asians in the Americas from the 16th Century 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 Asians in the Americas from the 16th Century 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, 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
Alternative Output Formats Alternative Output Formats

Featured Faculty

  • Prof. Ruggles Chosen to Lead Population Association of America (PAA)

    Prof. Steve Ruggles has been chosen president-elect of the Population Association of America (PAA) He will be the first historian ever to lead that organization (more typically its presidents have been sociologists or economists). Steve will serve as PAA president-elect in 2014 and president in 2015.

    This honor is recognition of the great work that Steve has done both in his own research and in supporting the work of other scholars through his work with the Minnesota Population Center. Congratulations, Prof. Ruggles!

    Learn more about the Population Association of America (PAA)

    March 15th, 2014
  • Digital Research Projects by HIST 3959 Students

    In Fall 2013, HIST 3959 - How to Do History was taught by Prof. Donna Gabaccia with a focus on digital history research projects. One additional feature of HIST 3959 this fall was that six graduate students earned graduate credit by working with the undergraduate groups as "project managers."

    Here is a sample of innovative projects from class:

    The Pacific Railroad Surveyors
    Jewish Life in 1930s/40s Minneapolis
    Why Public Education?
    Rustication in the Chinese Cultural Revolution
    Early Scandinavian Cartography
    Korea, Forgotten War?
    Political Leadership and Masculinity

    December 13th, 2013
  • Major Awards for History Profs. Kevin Murphy, Barbara Welke, Donna Gabaccia (2), Kay Reyerson, Elaine Tyler May

    It has been a season for great honors and accomplishments for our faculty. Congratulations to all!

    Donna Gabaccia is one of the recipients of the 2013 University Outstanding Community Service Award
    Donna Gabaccia has been awarded the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society for Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective.
    Elaine Tyler May has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2013 by The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.
    Kevin Murphy is a 2013 recipient of the UofM's Award for Outstanding Contributions to Postbaccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education.
    Kay Reyerson has been awarded the Robert L. Kindrick-CARA Award for Outstanding Service to Medieval Studies by the Medieval Academy.
    Barbara Welke has been named one of the new Distinguished McKnight University Professors.

    April 3rd, 2013

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