Lesson Plan

Vincent Chin and Asian American Civil Rights


Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Asian American, was beaten with a baseball bat in Detroit in 1982, at a time when anti-Asian sentiment was on the rise. One witness said the attack, which began at a bar where Chin was celebrating his recent engagement, looked “as if a baseball player was swinging for a home run.” He died of his injuries several days later. Despite the brutality, Chin’s assailants never spent a day in jail for his death. Family members and other allies pressured the Justice Department to prosecute the attackers for violating Chin’s civil rights. At a federal trial, a jury found one defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. But on appeal, that man went free. Even though the case ended in an acquittal, it set a precedent that racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans could be prosecuted as hate crimes, and new legislation soon followed.


Students will:

  • Examine the impact of Vincent Chin’s death on the Asian American community, and understand how it led to advocacy and action.
  • Define hate crime and explore legislation that addresses hate crimes.
  • Evaluate federal and state hate crime policies and data.
  • U.S. History
  • Civics & Government
  • Law
  • 1980s America
  • Civics and Government
  • Cultural and Social Change
  • Human Rights
  • Law
  • Race in America
  • U.S. History
  • Justice
  • The Modern Era (1980-Present)
  • Criminal Justice
  • Asian American History
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • What are hate crimes? How have government policies regulating hate crimes changed over time and in different locations?
  • How did the killing of Vincent Chin serve as a catalyst for Asian American civil rights?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "The Crime That Fueled an Asian American Civil Rights Movement"Retro Report
Learn About Hate CrimesU.S. Department of Justice
Hate Crimes: Laws and PoliciesU.S. Department of Justice
Hate Crimes: State Specific InformationU.S. Department of Justice
Text of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990Congress.gov
Text of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention ActCornell Law School

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.

Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.

Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system, with attention to various theories of democracy, changes in Americans’ participation over time, and alternative models from other countries, past and present.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests and perspectives on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.

Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.

Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com