Department of History

Ellen Wu

  • Assistant Professor, Department of History
  • Adjunct Assistant 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, 1996
  • M.A. at University of California, Los Angeles, 1998
  • Ph.D. at University of Chicago, 2006

Contact Information

BH 826


Ellen Wu

The questions that I explore in my research deal with issues of race, immigration, citizenship, 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, tells of the astonishing transformation of Asians in the United States from the “yellow peril” to “model minorities”—peoples distinct from the white majority but lauded as well-assimilated, upwardly mobile, and exemplars of traditional family values—in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Currently, I am at work on a manuscript about Asian Americans, immigration, and race in the late twentieth century.

My teaching areas compliment my research interests. I offer a range of courses that examine the political, social, and cultural history of the modern United States through the lens of Asian/Pacific America. I also teach classes on immigration, the Pacific World, and post-World War II/Cold War-era society and culture.

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: Princeton University Press, 2014.  In the series "Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America."

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.