Jack Tchen

Founding Director

Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is a historian, curator, and writer devoted to anti-racist, anti-colonialist democratic participatory storytelling, scholarship, and opening up archives, museums, organizations, and classroom spaces to the stories and realities of those excluded and deemed “unfit” in master narratives. Professor Tchen has been honored to be the Inaugural Clement A Price Chair of Public History & Humanities at Rutgers University – Newark and Director of the Clement Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture & the Modern Experience, since Fall 2018. 

Most recently, he is engaged with global warming crisis, eco justice, and the deep history of the region, founding the Public History Project (PHP), funded by the Ford Foundation. And he has been appointed onto the New York City Panel on Climate Change dealing with the 31-county regional estuarial impacts we are all facing. He has been supporting Munsee Lunaape bands with their Homeland efforts reconstructing their language, maps, place names, and stories. The PHP is reframing the history of the estuarial region starting with the triple foundational histories of dispossession, extractivism, and enslavement (work emerging from serving as a Commissioner on the NYC Mayor’s Commission on Monuments.) His ongoing series of work on eugenics in the New York City region surfaces how patrician elites fashioned a tested, measured, sorted tiered hierarchic system of “fit” European-descended “Nordics” on top, and the rankings of the great majority of “unfit” below–resulting in the Immigration Act of 1924 and practices of sterilization and incarceration all still impacting US political culture to this day. He is working with faculty from the University College London in their 2020-2021 work on coming to terms with eugenics in London and NYC – for the 100th commemoration of The Second International Eugenics Conference held at the American Museum of Natural History in 1921, NYC. 

He served as the senior historian for a New-York Historical Society exhibition on the impact of Chinese Exclusion Laws on the formation of the US and also senior advisor for the two-hour “American Experience” PBS documentary on the “Chinese Exclusion Act.” His most recent book – Yellow Peril: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear (2014) is a critical archival study of images, excerpts and essays on the history and contemporary impact of paranoia and xenophobia. In 1996, he founded the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific /American) Studies Program and Institute, and research collections, New York University, NYU where he worked closely with Jack G. Shaheen and brought in his research collection on anti-Arab representations in television and Hollywood. In 1980, he co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America.