Atlanta Hero Joe Jung, 1913

In the Jim Crow South, Chinese also faced race barriers.  Their children were denied admission to white schools in many places.The best known instance of school segregation against Chinese children was in the 1920s in Rosedale, Mississippi, where white school were restricted to caucasians.  A court case against the ruling went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court which  in 1927 ruled against the Chinese, Gong Lum v. Rice, 1927,  who did not succeed in achieving school integration until the late 1940s.

However, a very little known earlier case in 1913 of school segregation against Chinese in Atlanta, Georgia had a favorable outcome.  Joe Jung (no relation), a well-regarded "Chinaman" who owned a restaurant and other businesses, contested the denial of admission of two of his children to local white schools in Atlanta with the aid of a local church pastor where the Jungs worshipped.  The process took over two years but, Ollie, age 11 and Ruth, age 12, who had been privately tutored, were finally admitted by the City Attorney to the 4th and 5th grades, respectively, of a white school without recourse to any court proceedings. A third child, Mary Elizabeth, age 6, will be admitted to the first grade the next year.

In the Atlanta newspaper, Jung was described as a upright Christian who had long since shorn his queue and thoughts of "pagan gods and tong wars." It also noted that his wife, Lela, is a white person, leading one to wonder how the decision would have been if she had been Chinese or black. Or how the decision would have been if the father had been white and the mother, Chinese?

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Matthew Kramer, an Atlanta attorney, for providing leads on this story.

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