“Flashback: Oral Histories of D.C. Chinatown” is a joint project between filmmaker Penny Lee and 1882 Foundation, with support from HumanitiesDC, to share unpublished oral histories of residents of D.C.’s Chinatown. Through a series of ten short films, the project showcases the voices of twelve Chinatown residents to tell stories about family, immigration, growing up in D.C., and what the community is like today.

Visit  »@flashbackchinatowndc on Instagram for more in-depth biographical sketches of our narrators, and stay tuned for updates on upcoming events and releases of additional materials.

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Flashback: Oral Histories of D.C. Chinatown

Flashback Chinatown
Family History and Immigration (Episode 1)
How did Chinese come to Washington, D.C.? What journeys did they and ...
Family Livelihood and Businesses (Episode 2)
In Episode Two, D.C. Chinatown residents share poignant and funny ...
Chinese and Asian American Identity (Episode 3)
What does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be Chinese ...
Growing Up in Chinatown (Episode 4)
What was it like to be a kid in Chinatown? In Episode Four, learn ...
Inter-Ethnic Support, Friendships, and Community-Building (Episode 5)
In spite of racial tensions and segregation, Chinese Americans and ...
Race Relations (Episode 6)
How did Chinese Americans fit into the white-black racial paradigm? In ...
1968 Riots (Episode 7)
Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, ...
D.C. Riots Aftermath (Episode 8)
How did the riots affect D.C.’s Chinatown? What impact did they have ...
The Future of D.C. Chinatown (Episode 9)
As development boomed in D.C. Chinatown and removed physical traces of ...
The Art Ping Lee Story (Episode 10)
In this final episode, Mr. Art Ping Lee shares his story of arriving ...


Since the establishment of the first Chinatown in Washington, D.C., in the 1880s, Chinese Americans have been a key part of the fabric of D.C. and made significant contributions to the cultural, economic, and political landscape of the city. However, the stories of their arrival, struggle, and achievements are not widely known, and it is critical, in light of ever-shifting demographic trends as well as ongoing conversations about race and racial violence, to preserve and share these stories and memories.

The core of the project is a series of ten short films. These films focus on the lives and experiences of Chinatown residents, from those who were first-generation immigrants to the U.S. to those born and raised in Chinatown. These interviews illuminate not only a slice of everyday life in the District from the 1950s onward, but also the personal impact of social, economic, and political upheavals, including racial discrimination, gentrification of the neighborhood, and the 1968 riots. This collection makes a significant contribution to the study of D.C. history by offering a portrayal of the city as lived through the Chinese American experience, unique in its culture, practices, community-building, and navigation of intersectional relationships.


Ton Chin - Washingtonian, former Washington Post employee

Ton was born and raised in D.C. and lived in Chinatown for 29 years. He is a retired pressroom supervisor at The Washington Post, where he worked for 31 years. He is the original Chinatown biker because of his love of motorcycles - the first to purchase a motorcycle before all his buddies. He is also a lifetime member of the Chinese Youth Club of Washington, D.C.

Harry Chow - Washingtonian, former D.C. National Aquarium employee

Harry was born in D.C. and is a retired federal employee at the National Aquarium. He is a photographer and has a vast collection of images of Chinatown and its residents dating back to the 1970s. He has great stories about his experiences during the 1968 riots and how discrimination and prejudices affected him. Harry is Regina Chow McPhie’s older brother.

Regina Chow - McPhie Washingtonian, former D.C. government employee

Regina is a retired federal government employee. She was born and raised in D.C. and grew up in the Shaw neighborhood. Her ancestors worked on the railroads before coming to Washington. Regina is Harry Chow’s younger sister.

Albert Der - Washingtonian, former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission employee

Albert Der was a former Federal Government employee who retired from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Chinatown. He was an active member of the Chinese American Youth Club (CAYO) and the Chinese Youth Club (CYC). Given his passion for sports, Albert and his childhood friends played baseball in Slim’s parking lot and football in the alley when they were growing up in Chinatown. He played on the CAYO basketball team, the CYC volleyball team, and his High School tennis team. He was also an avid golfer. Albert passed away in November, 2016.

Art Ping Lee - First-generation Chinese immigrant, former CCBA and Lee's Association Chairman

Mr. Lee was 99 years old at the time of this interview. He was a first-generation immigrant from Toisan, China. He started a laundry business in D.C. and worked in the Naval Ship Yard in Delaware before World War II. Upon his return to D.C. after the war, he played an instrumental role in bringing together many Chinatown organizations in the community. He was a member of the Lee Family Association, founding member of the Chinese Youth Club, and former chairman of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and On Leong Chinese Merchants Association. Mr. Lee passed away in September 2020.

Edith and Emma Lee - Former owners of China Doll Restaurant on H St NW

Edith and Emma are sisters and both were born in the U.S. Their brother was Dr. Toon Lee, who was born in China. Their parents' first business was a bean sprout factory that cultivated and supplied bean sprouts to other local businesses. The family's second business, established in 1969, was the China Doll Restaurant on H Street NW.

Harry Lee - Washingtonian, former U.S. Postal employee

Harry is a retired U.S. Postal Service employee. He was born in D.C. and grew up in Chinatown on 6th Street NW. He is a member of the Chinese Youth Club and has provided many community volunteer services in the Chinatown area. He has a vast amount of knowledge about Chinatown history. Harry is Jack Lee’s older brother.

Jack Lee - Washingtonian, former Internal Revenue Reservice employee

Jack is a retired U.S. federal and District employee. He was born in D.C. and grew up in Chinatown on 6th Street NW. He has provided many community volunteer services in the Chinatown area. He is a member of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and the Chinese Youth Club. During his tenure with the Mayor's Office of Youth Opportunity Service, he assisted in the setup of one of the first government-funded youth programs in Chinatown. Jack is Harry Guey-Lee’s younger brother.

Dr. Toon Lee - Chinatown general practitioner doctor

Dr. Lee was a first-generation immigrant, born in Toisan, China. Two of his sisters are Edith and Emma Lee. He was one of two Chinese doctors in Chinatown and his general practice was located on I Street NW. His practice lasted over 50 years. He was a member of the Lee Family Association, chairman of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, founding member of Chinese American Citizens Alliance - D.C. Chapter, and an active member of the Chinatown community. Dr. Lee was married to community leader Linda Lee for 56 years. Dr. Lee passed away in February 2017.

Linda Lee - Entrepreneur, restaurant owner, community activist

Linda was a first-generation immigrant. She was the owner of Jade Palace Restaurant, which later became Hunan Chinatown Restaurant, on H Street NW. She was a Chinatown community activist for over 40 years and had many connections with the D.C. Mayor's office. Linda was married to Dr. Toon Lee for 56 years. Linda passed away in July 2019.

Eddie Moy Washingtonian, real estate broker, agent, and investor

Eddie is a native Washingtonian. He was born in D.C. and grew up in D.C.’s Chinatown. Eddie is president of the Moy Family Association and has been a member of the Chinese Youth Club for over 50 years. Eddie and his siblings still own and manage the properties their parents purchased in Chinatown over 50 years ago. He currently resides in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Meta Yee

Meta is the youngest of 7 siblings who grew up in DC Chinatown with her parents and grandparents, making her a 3rd generation Chinese immigrant and a 1st generation Chinese American. Meta was raised working in Mee Wah Lung, the family grocery store on H Street NW. In an effort to conserve their share of historic Chinatown, Meta diligently worked with her family to convert their childhood home into businesses that she continues to manage today. Meta has participated in countless community and cultural preservation meetings in DC. She is a lifelong member of the Chinese Youth Club along with her daughter and granddaughter.

Penny Lee – Project Director, Producer, and Editor, Flashback: Oral Histories of D.C. Chinatown
Wei Gan – Deputy Executive Director, 1882 Foundation
Amy Trang – Administrative Director, 1882 Foundation
Nathan Antila – Scriptwriter
Raymond Goh – Website designer
Emily Brignand – Intern
Aida Guo – Intern