1927 Historic Gong Lum v. Rice Mississippi School Segregation Case

Long before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in which the U. S. Supreme Court overturned school segregation, there was the Gong Lum v. Rice case decision in which the 1927 U. S. Supreme Court upheld Mississippi's exclusion of a Chinese American girl, Martha Lum, from attending a white school in Rosedale, MS.

Also pre-dating Brown v Board of Education was the 1941 School Board in Clarksdale, MS. denial of a petition supported by the Clarksdale Baptist Church pastor and 88 citizens for admission of the 7-yr old daughter, May (Magen) of Henry and Edith Jue to a white school for the 1941-2 school year. However, the School Board reconsidered and in the fall granted her conditional admission to a white school in Rosedale.

These two Mississippi cases were not the first instances where a Chinese American child was denied the right to attend a white school.

As far back as 1859, Chinese in San Francisco were not allowed to attend white schools.  In fact, San Francisco did not fund any schools at all for Chinese until the landmark 1885 Tape v. Hurley case.  The city lost the case but managed to still exclude Chinese from white schools by building them the Oriental School, a segregated "Chinese Primary School." 

In 1913, objections arose in Covington, Kentucky when Pong Dock applied to attend a white school.

The Hartford, Kentucky paper wrote on Nov. 12, 1913, "The little chubby fellow is an oriental, who, with his brother, intends to make the city of Covington their home in America.  He is fourteen years old... born in America, but his parents took him to China when he was three years old....Two months ago they sent him back to America...He is the first Chinese youth ever to apply for admission to the public schools of Coving.  But to what school does her belong?"  In the end, the Attorney General decided over objections of some white parents that Pong could attend a white school.

And prior to that case in 1910, a young girl from China, Mei Ling Soong, in Macon, Georgia, was denied admission to a white public school.
Interestingly, 33 years later, she returned to Macon, as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, to receive an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan Women's College before throngs of admirers.

1 comment:

  1. I tip my hat to you. Wonderful work. I am composing a book on social hypo-descent, so the issue of Black/Chinese families in Mississippi (1865-1944) is a critical example. Do you have any studies of your own? I would like to communicate with you. Contact me: wmpleasantiv@yahoo.com


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