A copy of the first issue of the Chinese American, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection.

Wong Chin Foo (1847-1898) was a Chinese-American activist and one of the most prolific Chinese writers in San Francisco’s press during the 19th Century. Born in Shandong, he participated in anti-government activities until he was forced to flee China around 1873. He arrived in the U.S. by way of Japan and became a U.S. citizen in 1874. He is most notably credited with coining the term “Chinese American,” with his prolific writing and publishing of The Chinese American, a weekly newspaper he started in New York City. In 1892, he directly challenged the racist rhetoric that was proliferated by the Chinese Exclusion Act. According to one anecdote, Wong cynically offered a $500 reward for anyone who could prove that Chinese ate cats or rats, to which no one responded. Wong took great steps towards formulating a collective sense of Chinese-American identity and advocated for the needs of his community. He is referred to by some as the “Chinese Martin Luther King” for his active dedication to claiming the civil and labor rights of the Chinese community in the U.S.