By reading the book
the students will be able to get an historical and humanized perspective on flying. Yep's novel, a Newbury Honor Book, is an historical fiction book that tells a beautiful story and skillfully incorporates many literary elements which are a part of the fourth and fifth grade curriculums. Students will read the book in small groups. The focus of these groups will be to have the students use various skills in reading comprehension, problem solving, critical thinking, and making connections to their own lives.
Students will be using
as a springboard into the multicultural aspect of the unit. They will be noticing the Chinese customs and comparing them to their own customs and traditions. Yep devotes a good deal of the novel to exploring the interactions, both good and bad, between American culture and Chinese culture at the turn of the century. Students will compare and contrast this situation to the blending of cultures that happens daily in the students' lives. Students will also consider what would motivate people to leave their home and travel to a strange new land. This will encourage a sense of compassion and empathy on the part of the students.
Dragonwings: Getting off the Ground with literature
is set at the turn of the century and follows a young Chinese boy named Moonshadow, as he travels from China to San Francisco to live with his father. The father, a kite maker by trade, has been working in America for many years and is very intrigued by flight. The father, Windrider, initiates a correspondence with Orville and Wilbur Wright to further his own flying machine despite the criticism and skepticism of those around him. Through the letters that are written between these men, the reader gets a glimpse into the hard work and diligence that went into the first flight, as well as the science behind flying.
The Wright Brothers
On December 17, 1903 in North Carolina, Orville Wright proved to only five spectators that man could fly in his biplane
Orville flew from Kill Devil Hill and over Kitty Hawk beach. This first flight lasted for twelve seconds but Orville had complete control of the plane. The
succeeded where its predecessors failed, thanks to its recently developed lightweight 12-horsepower gasoline engine. The original
flew only four times and logged in 98 seconds of flight time. The plane was caught in a gust of wind and crashed on the beach.
Before the brothers had a successful flight, they experimented with gliders, often pulling them like giant kites. Thanks to the boys' business savvy, they were able to fund all of their experiments with different flying machines. With a friend, Orville began a printing business. Wilbur helped to establish and expand this small business. The boys then decided to start a bicycle and repair business when in the 1890's the new safety bicycle (a bicycle with the two wheels being the same size) became extremely popular in Europe and America. Building and repairing bicycles took up much of the brothers' time but Wilbur was not satisfied. Wilbur wanted to invent something of his own. Wilbur came across an article in a magazine about Otto Lilienthal, a German engineer who made gliders in which he could glide on. Wilbur read about Lilienthal's ideas and thought they would not work, Wilbur was correct, Lilienthal died when his glider crashed. This gave Wilbur an idea for an invention, he wanted to build a machine that would fly, would be controlled by a human pilot, and would run on its own power.
For three years the Wrights would go to Kitty Hawk to try their gliders. In 1902 they were successful and decided it was time for them to put an engine on their "heavier-than-air machine." The first attempt was on December 14, 1903 with Wilbur as pilot they were not successful. Three days later, on December 17, Orville flew the plane 37 yards. The plane made three more flights that day, the last flight was 260 yards with Wilbur as the captain.
Making the Trip from China to San Francisco
From around 1840 to 1900, approximately 2.4 million Chinese left their homes and crushing poverty to move to Southeast Asia and Peru, the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, the West Indies, Africa, and the United States of America. After the Opium War, the Chinese Government increased taxes, and when the peasants were unable to pay their taxes, their land was taken away from them. Some people tried to move to the cities but jobs were scarce. Hawaii was an obvious destination for the Chinese, and the islands needed workers for the sugar plantations. By 1882, nearly half of all the plantation workers on the Hawaiian Islands were Chinese.
In 1848 gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. Stories of
, which means "Mountain of Gold" and was the term used by the Chinese when referring to California, enticed the Chinese to come to America to work for a few years in the gold mines and then return to China as rich men. Greater than half of the Chinese who came to the United States were from Guangdong, a province in South China, and the city of Canton. These people lived near the coast and were not afraid of the long and miserable voyage across the Pacific Ocean. It was almost always young men who left China, who did not plan to remain in the United States for long. The men would leave without their families but planned on returning so that they would die in their homeland.
Traveling to San Francisco was not an easy trip. By the 1870s steamships had taken over as the main way of crossing the ocean and the trip could be made in about a month's time. Before steamships, slow sailing ships would take two to three months to make the trip. The conditions were usually miserable, the ships would be crowded with men, the air was foul, and some of the immigrants were ill or seasick aboard the ship. The men would eat, sleep, and pass their time on straw mats and only occasionally were they permitted onto the deck of the ship. The trip to America was very expensive, about forty dollars. The average Chinese peasant earned about twenty to thirty dollars a year. For those who did not have money saved, there were two ways of paying for the trip. Money could be borrowed from money-lenders in the villages and could be paid back once the men arrived in the United States. Another way was to enter into a contract-labor agreement. By doing so, the Chinese man agreed to work for an American employer for a period of usually three to seven years. Every month the employer would deduct an amount of money from the wages until the immigrant's trip had been paid for. Both of these systems for paying were open to abuse. Many of the Chinese were swindled and ended up either working far beyond the number of years they were supposed to work or they paid about one-hundred dollars for the ticket.
The Chinese in America
At first, the Chinese were apprehensive to travel to America. However, by the 1850s the first group of men that had traveled to San Francisco began returning which was reassuring to the men who had remained in China. More encouraging was the fact that the men who returned brought riches with them that they had earned during their time in the United States.
Once the men overcame their apprehensions of making the voyage to San Francisco, made the long journey, and finally, with joy, arrived in the Golden Mountain they were greeted by the societies that had been formed to assist new arrivals. Clan societies protected families and district societies looked out for men from the same districts back in China. Eventually the numerous societies merged to form the Six Companies, a company for each of the districts from which most of the immigrants came. The Companies looked out for the welfare of the immigrants; one of their most important functions was to ship back to China the bones of any immigrant who had died, so that his remains could be honored in the traditional manner. The Six Companies were very powerful and controlled much of what happened to the Chinese immigrants. The Companies saw to it that those who had entered into a labor contract fulfilled the terms of the contract and that those who obtained their tickets based on credit paid back their debts in full. The Six Companies also prohibited any immigrant from returning to China before his debts were paid. This was made possible by an arrangement that was set up between the main steamship company and the Companies.
San Francisco had its very own Chinatown at the time, and was a home away from home for the immigrants. The Chinese men who worked in San Francisco could return to Chinatown in the evening to be joined on the weekends and holidays by the men who worked in the mines, on the railroads, and farms. In Chinatown the language, the food, the pastimes, and the traditions were familiar and comforting. Chinatown also had its downfalls; it was overcrowded, its inhabitants were poor, and there were few women and children.
The Jobs of the Chinese in California
In the 1850s, California was ninety percent male and the Chinese took the jobs that were traditionally considered to be "women's work." The Chinese set up laundries, restaurants, and worked as cooks on mining camps or as domestic servants. Employers began to be enthusiastic about hiring the Chinese because of their industriousness and willingness to take jobs that others would be too dignified to take.
Founded in 1861, the Central Pacific Railroad became a major employer of Chinese labor. Employers were at first reluctant because they thought the strenuous nature of the job would be too much for their smaller body frame. Employers soon found that the Chinese were quite capable and of the ten thousand men who worked to build the Central Pacific, nine thousand of them were Chinese. Farmers who employed Chinese laborers found the same to be true about their diligence on the farm.
How the Chinese were Welcomed
The first group of Chinese did not make an attempt to Americanize since they did not plan on remaining in the United States for long. They were, however, welcomed as hardworking, honest, and meticulous. As popular as the Chinese were with employers, they were just as unpopular with white laborers who resented their success and accused them of taking away jobs from Americans. Many Californians began to assert that the Chinese were slaves. This assertion was extremely disturbing to the Californians considering that, in 1849 they had adopted a constitution prohibiting slavery, and a year later joined the Union as a nonslave state. Many people cried out for the expulsion of the Chinese from the state since they were perceived as a continual threat to the stability of California. The Chinese in California became a target for hostility, a ready scapegoat.
California legislature began to pass a series of bills against the Chinese. They were declared ineligible for citizenship; they were made to pay higher taxes; they were not protected by the law; they were required to send their children to separate schools although none were built; they were not allowed to marry white women. By 1882, discriminatory restrictions were put in place against the Chinese. In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed that excluded any Chinese laborers from entering the United States. On November 30, 1885 Congress passed an act to prohibit contract labor. On May 5, 1892 the Geary Act was passed which extended the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 for another 10 years and also required the certificates of residence for Chinese living in the United States. In 1899 the United States declared an Open Door Policy toward China which increased feelings of goodwill toward the American government among the Chinese in both China and in the United States.
During this time, the Chinese found ways to get around the immigration restrictions. Some men became "paper merchants" since merchants could bring their families over. Chinese laundrymen, restaurant owners, gardeners, and cooks all tried to claim they were merchants. When the San Francisco earthquake occurred in 1906, almost all of the city's records were destroyed providing the Chinese an opportunity to claim that they were born in San Francisco, which would mean that they were automatically American citizens. Yet, the Chinese in America continued to face many hardships and opposition, and, over the years became more and more isolated from American culture.
Eventual End of Exclusion
By 1940, nearly fifty-two percent of the Chinese population in America was born in the United States making them American citizens. Gradually, this generation began to assimilate with American culture. When World War II began, the Chinese in the United States voiced their protest of the Japanese invasion of China and their support of the Allied forces. The war against Japan made the United States and China allies. The United States provided great amounts of military and financial assistance to the government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Republic of China. Generalissimo's wife toured the United States in 1943, hoping to win the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the importance of China as an ally with America and supported the repeal and in 1943 Congress discussed and repealed the act.