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Can Theater Save Minority History in U.S. Classrooms?


The United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind is a production of the Los Angeles-based Asian American theater group East West Players (EWP) and its Youth Arts Education program. Since 2005, East West Players has commissioned a playwright each year to produce a work centered on significant Asian Pacific Americans in U.S. history. Past subjects include the Filipino American novelist Carlos Bulosan; the first Chinese American aviator, Katherine Chung; and the first female gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy, the Korean American Susan Ahn Cuddy.

investing in ethnic-studies programs despite evidence that such programs boost students’ academic performances and attendance. Campaigns for including minorities in U.S.-history textbooks have popped up around the country. But Eurocentric narratives have persisted, like when a controversial version of the U.S. slave trade popped up in a high-school textbook published by McGraw Hill.

Vinny Chhibber and Steve Humphreys in The United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind (Audrey Yap)

Bias and stereotyping against minorities have also become points of contention, like in Texas where one proposed Mexican American studies textbook includes descriptions that link Mexican Americans to illegal immigration, drug trafficking and a desire to “destroy” U.S. society. Other examples highlight politics from abroad, like the current battle over proposed edits to California’s middle school history books that would replace “India” with “South Asia” and tie Hinduism to the caste system.