Professor's New Book Explores 'Voices of Angel Island' through Historic Inscriptions

Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Inscription in Chinese on a wall of the U.S. Immigration Station on Angel Island
Photo courtesy of Charles Egan

The Angel Island immigration station was slated for demolition in the early 1980s, threatening to erase the history on its walls where hundreds of thousands of immigrants shared their stories. Since preserved and restored, the station and its inscriptions attracted Chinese Professor Charles Egan. He spent 15 years researching his new book “Voices of Angel Island: Inscriptions and Immigrant Poetry, 1910 – 1945” (Bloomsbury Press).

Angel Island, now a California state park, is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay. It was known as “The Ellis Island of the West” for the U.S. Immigration Station, but was more of a detention center for hundreds of thousands of immigrants — the majority from China. During World War II, Japanese and German prisoners of war were detained at the station.

Learn the truths behind the writings on the Angel Island walls, in a video interview with Egan. The video features archival photographs from the book, giving a glimpse into the lives of those who passed through Angel Island.

— Story and video by Ying Wencie Hoang

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