Monday, November 15, 2004


Got this email where I believe the cause is good, but I'm not sure about the delivery. The Asian Media Watch should have listed possible Asian American innovators that they believe should have been included within the top 64 American innovators or even the appendix of 101. I assume Harold Evans used some criteria list for his book, so they should have learn what it was and argued based on that system. Or for the sheer merit of an outstanding individual argued for his/her inclusion. Anyways, read below:

No APIAs Are Among the Key Innovative Americans in the Book and PBS Documentary "They Made America"

Asian Media Watch
November 12, 2004

There are no Asian/Pacific Islander Americans among the 64 key American innovators in the book, "They Made America," by Harold Evans, the basis of the PBS documentary of the same name. 92% of the individuals featured in the book and documentary are white Americans. The 4-part documentary film, produced by WGBH Boston and promoted as a teaching aid, premiered on PBS November 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Asian Media Watch is concerned that PBS and WGBH are encouraging educators to use the book, website, and documentary film "They Made America" as resources for teaching students about American History. "They Made America" does not adequately acknowledge the contributions and perspectives of Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native Americans, and presents a Euro-centric presentation of American History. Asian Media Watch wants you to express your opinion to PBS and WGBH Boston.

The demographics by ethnicity of the 64 innovators profiled in the book and website are: 59 White, 3 Black, 2 Middle Eastern, 0 South Asian, 0 East Asian/Pacific Islander, 0 Native American.

The book also contains an appendix of 101 other innovators "who also made a difference." None of the people on this list are identifiable by name as being of Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, or Native American descent.

The author of the book credits the building of the Transcontinental Railroad to the "engineering and managerial feats" of Theodore Dehone Judah, and to Charles Crocker, foreman of the Central Pacific Railroad. Crocker is hailed for his "managerial skill" and innovation as a "motivator" by making "railway builders [out] of thousands of Chinese laundrymen, chefs, errand boys, gardeners ..." Omitted are important accounts of the treatment of Chinese railroad workers including a labor strike in which the Chinese demanded more wages and shorter hours in return for their life-threatening, dawn-til-dusk work hand-chiseling, blasting, and clearing tunnels through the granite of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Crocker responded by stopping the supply of food and provisions to Chinese laborers. Threatened with starvation and violence at the hands of a well-armed posse of white men led by Crocker, the Chinese were forced back to work. Yet, the author describes Crocker as the "choreographer" of a "ballet." If the author credits Judah and Crocker for their innovativeness as engineers and managers, should he not similarly hold them accountable for the exploitation of Chinese labor, and mention the bias and discrimination that Chinese immigrants experienced after the railroad's completion e.g. The Chinese Exclusion Act.

Contact the producers of "They Made America" to express your opinion. An online feedback form and contact information are available here.

Tell PBS, WGBH, and the producers of "They Made America" to:
1. Include the contributions and perspectives of Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Americans in their educational materials for "They Made America."
2. Add Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American innovators to the "They Made America" PBS/WGBH website
3. Supplement the PBS/WGBH documentary with discussions and segments about Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American contributions to American History.
4. Ensure that future educational programming include a diversity of materials and perspectives.

We recognize that the book and documentary film "They Made America" have already been written and produced. However, PBS and WGBH still have the opportunity and responsibility to include more diverse materials and perspectives into the documentary, website, and educational materials for "They Made America."

About They Made America
The documentary film and website "They Made America" are produced by WGBH Boston. They are based on the book of the same name authored by Sir Harold Evans, a distinguished historian and journalist, and published by Little, Brown and Company, a unit of Time Warner Books Group. Evans has been successively the founding editor of Conde Nast Traveler; president and publisher of Random House, editorial director and vice chairman of U.S. News and World Report, and the New York Daily News. He credits the idea for the book to conversations he had in 1998 with Pat Mitchell, head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (sponsor of the documentary); and Laurence Kirshbaum, then Chairman and CEO of Time Warner Books Group.

More information is available here.

About Asian Media Watch
Asian Media Watch is an independent non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to promoting a diverse, fair, and balanced portrayal of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the media and entertainment industry.

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