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Every year the Bullitt Lecture in American History challenges us to think more deeply about the present moment — to see today's decisions in the context of history. It's a trick of perspective, using distance to force a closer (usually painfully close) look in the mirror.

On December 1, Erika Lee, one of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, will take the stage for this year's lecture to talk about America's history of xenophobia, from the Japanese Americamn incarceration to Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban." No one can address this topic with more authority than Lee, as the bio below attests. And we desperately need this talk: we need to understand that what's happening on the political stage isn't an intrusion, but part of our country's genetic code, before we can root it out.

After her lecture, Lee will be joined by Tom Ikeda, co-founder and executive director of Densho.org, an incredible repository of the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. Check out the site, and put this event on your calendar today.


The A. Scott Bullitt Lecture in American History is hosted by this week's sponsor, the Seattle Public Library. The event is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and media sponsor The Seattle Times and presented in partnership with Densho and Elliott Bay Book Company. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

About Erika Lee

One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she holds the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, is Director of the Immigration History Research Center, and a Regents Professor. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, Lee grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Recently awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, (also known as the nation’s “brainy award” and a frequent commentator in the media, she is the author of three award-winning books in U.S. immigration and Asian American history: At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (University of North Carolina Press, 2003), Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (co-authored with Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, 2010), and most recently, The Making of Asian America: A History (Simon & Schuster, 2015, 2nd ed., 2016, Chinese version, 2018). Called "sweeping," "comprehensive," and "fascinating" by the New York Times and a "long overdue stirring chronicle" by the LA Times, The Making of Asian America was the recipient of the 2015 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature from the American Library Association, an “Editor’s Choice” by the New York Times, and was named to the Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 list by Kirkus Reviews. Lee is currently writing a history of xenophobia in the United States titled Fear of the Stranger: A History of American Xenophobia, which is under contract with Basic Books to be published in 2020.