Monday, December 23, 2013
December 23, 2013: AmericanStudies Wishes: A Site for the CEM
[Each of the last couple years, I’ve expressed some holiday-season wishes for the AmericanStudies Elves. I’ve still got plenty on my list, so this year I’ll share five more wishes. Add your own in comments, please! And happy holidays!]
On the unbuilt historic site that I’d love to help make happen.
Hartford, Connecticut is already home to a couple of America’s most famous historic or cultural sites: the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, both located in the city’s historic and picturesque Nook Farm neighborhood. Both houses are great, and I recommend a visit to both (which can and should be accomplished at the same time, as they’re next door to each other and speak to each other in interesting and important ways). But over the last year or so, as two of my ongoing scholarly interests have intersected—the 2016 Northeast MLA conference, for which I’ll be President and which will be held in Hartford; and the story of Yung Wing and his Chinese Educational Mission, which was housed in the city and about which I wrote a good deal in my recent book—I’ve come to feel that Hartford needs another historic and cultural site, and it needs it now.
The complex, inspiring, and profoundly American stories of Yung and of his CEM students unfolded around the country and world, from the Chinese communities out of which they all came to the many New England towns where they studied, from Washington DC where Yung volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War to San Francisco where the CEM baseball team played its final, triumphant but ironic game. But it was in Hartford where Yung settled with his wife, Avon (CT) woman Mary Kellogg, helped raise their two sons, Morrison and Bartlett, and (per his New York Times obituary) passed away in 1912; and it was in Hartford that Yung decided to construct the Educational Mission’s headquarters and that thus served as a central American home for the 120 CEM students during their near-decade in the US (between 1872 and 1880). Moreover, just as Twain’s and Stowe’s lives included and impacted many places and communities but have been focalized in their Hartford historic sites, so too do Yung and the Chinese Educational Mission need a particular place to be most fully remembered—and there’s no better American place to do so than Hartford.
There’s just one problem—I have no idea how to get started advocating for the creation of a historic site; and it’s a particularly difficult and challenging time even for well-established and longstanding such sites, much less for not-yet-constructed or even –envisioned ones. Okay, maybe that’s more than just one problem. But it’s also where the AmericanStudies Elves come in. So Elves, I have, well, more than one wish: that I can find ways to connect to multiple communities who would have an interest and stake in helping make a CEM site happen (from fellow AmericanStudiers to the Chinese American community, the Connecticut Historical Society, and the Define American project, among many others); and that I can live to see Yung Wing and the Chinese Educational Mission remembered in a Hartford site that does justice to their amazing American stories.
Next wish tomorrow,
PS. Thoughts on this wish? Wishes you’d share?