Conference honorees: Chinese America's grand historians *.



Born in San Francisco Chinatown on December 17, 1926, Philip P. Choy grew up in a family of five children. His father, a paper son, was part owner of a meat market on the north end of Grant Avenue; his mother, American-born though having grown up in China, worked in a sewing factory.

After attending San Francisco public schools and Nam Kue Chinese School, Choy enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. While in basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, Choy witnessed segregation in its extremity, which was to motivate his activities in later years. Upon his return, Choy attended the University of California at Berkeley on the GI Bill. Graduating with a degree in architecture, he would continue to work in residential and commercial design for fifty years.

As president of the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) during the Civil Rights era, Choy sensed a growing interest and demand for Chinese American history to be taught in schools and universities. His opportunity came in September 1969, when he and fellow CHSA member Him Mark Lai co-taught the first college-level Chinese American history course in the nation at San Francisco State University (SFSU), known then as San Francisco State College. Although no longer actively teaching, Choy holds the title of Adjunct Professor of Asian American Studies at SFSU.

Given his background in architecture, Choy has had a strong presence in historic preservation, serving on the San Francisco Landmark Advisory Board and the California State Historical Resources Commission, and conducting the extensive 1978 historical/cultural survey of San Francisco Chinatown. He was also an early advocate for the preservation of Angel Island Immigration Station, sitting on their Historical Advisory Committee and writing the case report to nominate the site to the National Registry of Historic Places. Choy then devoted much of his time to the Chinatown YWCA, helping them to secure landmark status for their Julia Morgan designed brick building. His work would come full circle, as he would later support CHSA's acquisition of the building.

Honored by countless organizations for his work in the community, Choy is also co-author of A History of the Chinese in California: A Syllabus; Outlines: History of the Chinese in America; and The Coming Man: 19th Century American Perceptions of the Chinese. He has served as consultant and advisor for many projects, exhibitions, and media presentations on the...

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