Department of History

Ellen Wu

  • Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of American Studies
  • Affiliated Faculty, Asian American Studies Program
  • Affiliated Faculty, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society


  • B.A., B.S. at Indiana University
  • M.A. at University of California, Los Angeles
  • Ph.D. at University of Chicago

Contact Information

BH 826


Ellen Wu

The issues that animate my research grapple with problems of race, citizenship, migration, and nation through the lens of Asian American history. My first book, The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Princeton, 2014), tells of the astonishing makeover of Asians in the United States from the “yellow peril” to “model minorities” (i.e. culturally wired to “succeed”) in the middle decades of the twentieth century. It charts the emergence of the model minority stereotype in the dual contexts of the United States’ global rise and the black freedom movement between the 1940s-60s. The Color of Success reveals that this far-reaching, politically charged process continues to have profound implications for how Americans understand race, opportunity, and nationhood. My current project considers the changing conditions and consequences of race-making and policy-making in the late twentieth century United States.

Questions of relationships between the foreign and the domestic also fuel my work as a teacher. As an historian of the twentieth century United States, I offer a range of classes from the modern U.S. history survey to an upper-division intensive writing course on Cold War America. I also teach the histories of Asian Americans, the inextricable connections between immigration and the race in the United States, and America’s Pacific entanglements.

Selected Awards

  • Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Diversity-International Outreach Fellowship, 2012
  • Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2010-2011
  • The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Historical Studies Residential Fellowship, 2010-2011
  • Indiana University New Frontiers in the Arts & Humanities Grant, 2010

Research Interests

  • 20th Century United States History
  • Asian American History
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Citizenship
  • Migration
  • Chinese diaspora

Courses Recently Taught

  • Asian American History
  • America's Pacific
  • America in the 1950s
  • The United States and the Pacific Wars: Social and Cultural Consequences
  • Immigration, Race, and Nation in Modern America

Publication Highlights

The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014, in the series “Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America.

“Deghettozing Chinatown: Race and Space in Postwar America,” in Race and Retail, eds. Mia Bay and Ann Fabian. Forthcoming from Rutgers University Press.

“The Invention of the Model Minority,” in The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies, ed. Cindy I-Fen Cheng. Forthcoming from Routledge Press. 

Introduction to special issue on Ethnicity and the Cold War Part II, Journal of American Ethnic History, 31:4 (Summer 2012): 7-11.

“‘America’s Chinese’: Anti-Communism, Citizenship, and Cultural Diplomacy During the Cold War,” Pacific Historical Review (August 2008): 319-422

 “Chinese American Transnationalism Aboard the ‘Love Boat’: The Overseas Chinese Youth Language Training and Study Tour to the Republic of China,” Chinese America: History and Perspectives, 2005: 51-64,

With Nakanishi, Don T. Distinguished Asian American Political and Government Leaders. Phoenix, AZ: Greenwood Press, 2002.