Erika Lee

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Department of History
1110 Heller Hall
271 19th Ave S

Erika Lee is a Regents Professor of History and Asian American Studies, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, and Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Recently elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, she is Vice President of the Organization of American Historians and the author of award-winning books including 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 The Making of Asian America: A History (Simon & Schuster, 2015, 2nd ed., 2016, Chinese version, 2019). Her recently-published America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States. Called “unflinching and powerful” by Carol Anderson (author of White Rage) and “essential reading” by Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Antiracist), America for Americans won the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature ,and the Richard Frisbie Honored Book Award for Nonfiction. It was also a finalist for the Ralph Waldo Emerson award and the Minnesota Nonfiction Book Award and was named to best books lists by Time, USA Today, and Ms. Magazine. It was highlighted by the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the New York Public Library as one of the most important books illuminating the Trump era and informing essential issues in the 2020 election. It has been excerpted in The Atlantic and profiled in The New Yorker. Op-eds based on the book appeared in Time and the Washington Post. She has been awarded numerous national and university fellowships and awards for her research, teaching, and leadership, including the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, the 2017 Dean's Medal and the Arthur Red Motley Award for Excellence in Teaching from the College of Liberal Arts, the 2016 Pioneer Award from OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, and the 2015 Immigrant Heritage Award from the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. She is an active public scholar, appears regularly in the media, and has been an invited speaker at universities, historical societies, and community organizations around the U.S. and internationally. At the Immigration History Research Center, Lee has helped to pioneer new ways of merging immigration history with the digital humanities. She launched and oversees the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Immigrant Stories Project which works with recent immigrants and refugees to collect, preserve, and share their experiences with a new multi-lingual digital story-telling website ( and archive. She also founded and directs the Immigrants in COVID America project, documenting the impact of the pandemic on immigrants and refugees ( and founded and co-organized the #ImmigrationSyllabus project (, a digital educational resource offering historical perspectives to contemporary immigration debates.

Educational Background & Specialties

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.


  • Migration, Race, and Ethnicity
  • Asian Americans
  • 20th-century United States
  • Law and Public Policy
Courses Taught
  • American Immigration History (graduate seminar)
  • Hist 3862: American Immigration History
  • Hist 3877 - Asian American History, 1850-Present
  • Hist 3875W - Comparative Race and Ethnicity in US History
  • Hist 5877: Asian American History (graduate seminar)
  • AAS 1101: Imagining Asian America
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Director: Immigration History Research Center , 2012 - Present
  • 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
  • Lead Conference Organizer: Immigrant America: New Immigration Histories from 1965 to the Present (October, 2015) , 2012 - Present


  • Fear of the Stranger: A History of American Xenophobia: Book Project, 2017 - 2020
  • “Migration and Migrants in Terrifying Times,” Interdisciplinary Collaborative Workshop: Interdisciplinary Collaborative Workshop (co-led with Jack DeWaard and Ryan Allen), 2018 - 2020
  • “Voicing the Global Immigration Crisis: Documentation and Analysis of Immigrant Stories for Social Change”: University of Minnesota Grand Challenges Exploratory Research Grant and GPS International Enhancement Grant ($80,000, Prof. Moin Syed) to bring the Immigrant Stories project to Sweden and Germany , 2017 - 2018
  • Immigrant Stories Digital Storytelling Project: National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Implementation Grant ($324,121) to create innovative technology and expand “Immigrant Stories” nationwide, 2015 - 2017
  • Global Minnesota: Immigrants Past and Present: National Endowment for the Humanities Public Square in the Humanities Grant ($148,000) to organize public programs and community engagement projects , 2016 - 2017
  • Immigrant America: New Immigration and Immigration Histories Since 1965: National Conference funded by CLA Imagine Grant, 2015 - 2015
  • Asian Americas: Asian Immigration and the Making of the Americas, 1565 to the Present: 2012 - 2015
  • 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


  • “Here Come the Doctors: The USPHS at the Angel Island Immigration Station,” : Everett C. Koop Memorial Lecture, U.S. Public Health Service Annual Conference, June, 2017
  • Invited Speaker: National Book Festival, Cato Institute, National Archives, Asian American Bar Association, University of CA, Irvine, University of Maryland , 2015
  • “Stand Up/Speak Out: The Need for Asian American Activism Today": Google Talk, March, 2017
  • Keynote Address: National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Twin Cities Chapter Annual AAPI Women's Leadership Summit , May 2015
  • “Immigrant Rights and African American Freedom Struggles”: 30th Anniversary Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture, Grinnell College, January, 2017
  • “Immigrant America at the Crossroads: Fifty Years after the 1965 Immigration Act” : Keynote Address, Remaking America: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and Its Impact, University of Maryland, November, 2015
  • Invited Speaker: Rutgers University, University of Colorado, Boulder, University of California, Santa Barbara, Organization of American Historians, Association for Asian American Studies, 2014 - 2015
  • “You Can’t Teach American History without Asian Americans” : 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop (From Immigrants to Citizens: Asian Pacific Americans in the Northwest), Seattle, WA, July, 2014
  • “The Exclusion of Asian Immigrants and the Making of the United States as a “Gatekeeping Nation,” : 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop (From Immigrants to Citizens: Asian Pacific Americans in the Northwest), , July, 2014
  • “Angel Island: Asian American History through Historic Landmarks,” : 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop (From Immigrants to Citizens: Asian Pacific Americans in the Northwest), , July, 2014
  • Keynote Lecture: Japanese Association for Migration Studies Conference, Wakayama, Japan, June, 2014
  • Invited Speaker, Harvard University, Organization of American Historians, Association for Asian American Studies, Hamline University, Macalester College: 2013 - 2014
  • Invited Speaker, National Central University (Taiwan), Academia Sinica (Taiwan), National Taiwan Normal University, University of Toronto, UC Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee: 2012-2013
  • 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
  • America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States . Lee, Erika, Basic Books, Author, 2019. LinkImage
  • The Making of Asian America: A History. Lee, Erika, Simon & Schuster, Author, 2015, 2016.
  • “Chinese immigrants now largest group of new arrivals to the U.S”: Lee, Erika, Author. Link
  • "Minnesotans’ Refugee Stories, 40 Years After the Fall of Saigon": Lee, Erika, Elizabeth Venditto, Star Tribune, April 29, 2015. Link
  • Angel Island Immigration Station. Lee, Erika, Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, Author, 2015. LinkDownload
  • Entanglements and the Practice of Migration History: Lee, Erika, University of Florida Press, Entangling Migration History , 2015.
  • Chinese Americans: Lee, Erika, University of Virginia Press, Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts , 75-96, 2012.
  • 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 G, Judy Yung. Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. Oxford University Press, 2010. Link
  • Lee, Erika G. "Asian American Studies in the Midwest: New Questions, Approaches, and Communities." Journal of Asian American Studies 12 (2009): 247-273.
  • Lee, Erika G. "Wong Kim Ark v. United States: Immigration, Race, and Citizenship." Race Law Stories (2008): 89-109.
  • Lee, Erika G. "The "Yellow Peril" and Asian Exclusion in the Americas." Pacific Historical Review 76:4 (2007):
  • Lee, Erika G. "Hemispheric Orientalism and the 1907 Race Riots on the Pacific Coast." Amerasia Journal 33:2 (2007):
  • Lee, Erika G. "A Nation of Immigrants / A Gatekeeping Nation: American Immigration Law and Policy, 1875-Present." A Companion to American Immigration History (2006):
  • Lee, Erika G. "The Balancing Act: Work, Family, and the Need for Institutional Change in the Academy." Journal of Women's History 18:1 (2006):
  • Lee, Erika G. "Orientalisms in the Americas: A Hemispheric Approach to Asian American History." Journal of Asian American Studies (2005):
  • Lee, Erika G, Naoko Shibusawa. "What is Transnational Asian American History?." Journal of Asian American Studies 2005
  • Lee, Erika G. "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 G. "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. LinkImage
  • Lee, Erika G. "Exclusion Acts: Chinese Women During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943." Asian/Pacific Islander American Women: A Historical Anthology (2003):
  • Lee, Erika G. "Enforcing the Borders: Chinese Exclusion along the U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico, 1882–1924." Journal of American History (2002):
  • Lee, Erika G. "The Example of Chinese Exclusion: Race, Immigration, and American Gatekeeping, 1882-1924." Journal of American Ethnic History 21:3
  • Lee, Erika G. "Immigrants and Immigration Law: A State of the Field Assessment." Journal of American Ethnic History 18(4) (1999): 85-114.
  • 2018 Distinguished Historian Award, Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
  • 2017 College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Medal
  • University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight Professor , 2016 - to present
  • 2016 Pioneer Award from OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
  • 2015 -2016 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Adult Non-Fiction from the American Library Association for The Making of Asian America: A History
  • Immigrant Heritage Award, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, 2015
  • 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