Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Tamara Venit-Shelton

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Aileen Zheng


This thesis explores the histories of Boston and Philadelphia’s Chinatowns, and how they were impacted by urban renewal policies in the mid-twentieth century. Through historical analysis of primary and secondary sources, I answer the question of how Chinatowns in Boston and Philadelphia resisted and persisted in the face of repeated attempts to destroy the community and physical space through highway construction. I first dive into the historical origins of Boston and Philadelphia’s Chinatowns, and their evolution over time into a place that non-Chinese deemed as disposable and replaceable. I explore how they fought back against projects that did not serve their interests and threatened to destroy their presence in the city.

I found that although Boston and Philadelphia are similar in their histories, Philadelphia’s Chinatown was more successful in combating urban renewal projects. Its residents bonded over the fight to save the Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church, a cornerstone of the community. Because of this focus, different community organizations were able to work together more closely and cohesively to thwart redevelopment plans that did not serve community interests. Without a similar rallying point, Boston Chinatown’s community organizations could not present a united front. While this thesis explores the histories of Chinatowns, the findings here can help all ethnic enclaves survive in the face of removal.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.