9/23/12

An "Undercount" of Mississippi Delta Chinese

        Historian Charles Bolton published The Hardest Deal of All in 2005, an analysis of school desegregation from1870-1980 in Mississippi. While it is quite understandable that the struggle between blacks and whites would receive the preponderance of the book's coverage, it unjustifiably fails to make any mention of the contest that the Delta Chinese fought in an attempt to gain admittance to the state's white schools.  
        Since the late 1800s Mississippi maintained that white schools were for caucasians only, and that since Chinese were not caucasian, it was ruled that they could not attend white schools. Chinese fought this situation in court, a generation before the landmark 1954 decision (Brown vs. Board of Education) that overturned school desegregation nationwide.  The Chinese lost their case, and the ruling was upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court, Gong Lum v. Rice, 1927.  Chinese had to establish their own schools to provide better education for their children with the assistance of local churches until  white schools finally began to admit them during the late 1940s in a few small Delta towns.
       A computer search of the book for "Chinese" and "Gong Lum" found "0 results" for both terms.  Like the denial of their access to schooling for almost half of the past century,  this historical account of Mississippi schools also short-changed the Chinese in Mississippi by ignoring their struggles.


2 comments:

  1. An isolated group of Chinese Americans managed to maintain a vital, albeit small community in the Mississippi Delta for roughly a hundred years. Now largely forgotten, Chinese groceries once dotted small Delta towns, serving mostly the black community. They also provided the essential ticket to survival for the Chinese immigrants in a society strictly segregated between black and white.
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  2. Most definitely, the Delta Chinese were few in number but made many contributions to their communities. For more info, please visit this site: http://mississippideltachinese.webs.com/

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