Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Mississippi Delta Chinese Experience


From MBB News, "Magnolias and Chopsticks: The Mississippi Delta Chinese Experience Part 1," by Sandra Knispel, on 21 September 2011 -- The Chinese of the Mississippi Delta are an often-overlooked part of the history of the Deep South. In part one of our two-part series, MPB’s Sandra Knispel tells the story of what made them come all the way to the small towns of the Delta.

China is a long way from the United States. Yet many made the voyage, hoping for a better life. In the late 1860s, the first Chinese reached the Mississippi Delta. According to data collected by the University of Mississippi's Center for Population Studies, in 1870 only 16 Chinese lived in the Magnolia state.

“The Chinese were attracted to the Delta by plantation owners who were looking for cheap labor to replace many of the slaves who were no longer working on the plantations.”


John Jung is a California State University professor emeritus of psychology and author of Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton and Southern Fried Rice, which both describe the Chinese experience in the Deep South. The plantation owner’s plans failed quickly when the new immigrants left sharecropping pretty much immediately.

Sot Dr. John Jung: That’s partly because the Chinese were able to find a more lucrative way of earning a living.” 6

That lucrative way came as small-scale grocers. Chinese immigration to the Deep South really began to pick up in the early 20th century. Luck Wing is a retired Delta pharmacist whose parents left China in the 1920s.

“For a better life, you know. The Chinese word for the United States back then was Gam Saan, that’s the Cantonese for “Gold Mountain.”


“The Chinese at home in China would literally think that all you needed to do was to come to the United States and work somewhat and you can share in the wealth,” says Frieda Quon.

Frieda Quon, a retired librarian at Delta State is like Wing is a second-generation Chinese-American. Both were born and raised in the Mississippi Delta.

“My father came at the age of 14 from a small village in China, Canton. And he came to Chicago to join his older brother who was already there in a laundry business."

Quon’s father came to the U.S. in the 1920s, originally on forged papers, pretending to be someone else’s child.


"So, when dad left, he was the youngest to come, he wouldn’t get to see his parents again. His father died, never saw his father again. He did get to see his mother but it would be years later.”

At some point in the late 1930s, her father moved 600 miles south, down from Illinois to the Magnolia state.

"My uncle heard about Mississippi and the better opportunities for [making] a living in Mississippi," Quon explains. So, he left my father, probably with a cousin or uncle or others, to run the laundry while he journeyed to Mississippi to investigate. So, yes, this was better than the laundry and so then eventually my father came to Mississippi as well.”

In the Delta, nearly all Chinese were small grocery owners, filling a void left by white plantation owners who had stopped the commissary business of selling goods to their black sharecroppers, often at rather unfavorable terms. Quon’s dad, too, had by now become a Delta grocer. But there was something else he wanted…


“In ‘39 or 1940, he went back to China to be married. And the custom then was to have a matchmaker. It was just willingly accepted. You know, my mom never saw dad before she married him. I think maybe they stayed for a brief time but then eventually both came on a ship and came to Mississippi.”

Unlike in the large urban centers of New York and Chicago where the immigrants lived in so-called Chinatowns, the Delta Chinese were largely on their own. Without a sizeable Chinese community around them, they ended up largely isolated in Mississippi’s rigid society.

“We were not with the white group and we were not with the black group. And so, I guess, we were somewhere in the middle.”


They quickly learned that in order to survive one had to tread carefully and keep mum. Public neutrality in the emerging civil rights struggle of the 1950 and 60s became second nature to most Delta Chinese. At some point, Frieda Quon’s family even owned two groceries in Greenville:

"The way the stores were arranged -- they were diagonally. One on Alexander and Eureka and actually the other one was on Alexander and Eureka. But one focused more on the trade for the black customers, and then the other one for the white customers. Two separate stores.”

The grocery stores proved to be the ticket to survival in the Deep South. And even today, scattered among the many shuttered business facades of the Delta, here and there are still some small surviving Chinese groceries… long past their heyday, often with old, sun-bleached neon signs, but nevertheless part of the Delta’s storied history.  [source: MBB News--Sandra Knispel, MPB News.]


18 comments:

  1. Heya i'm for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It really helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give one thing back and help others like you helped me.

    Feel free to surf to my blog: propiedades de la moringa

    ReplyDelete
  2. What's up colleagues, its great piece of writing regarding educationand completely defined, keep it up all the time.

    Here is my website: green tea extract

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and
    wished to mention that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.

    In any case I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write once more soon!

    my web blog; teeth whitening process

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fantastic blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I'm planning to start my own website soon but I'm a little
    lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I'm totally overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

    my web-site renowned doctor reveals what works for weight loss

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi there, You have done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and personally suggest
    to my friends. I'm sure they will be benefited from this site.

    Here is my web blog :: raspberry keytone

    ReplyDelete
  6. There is definately a great deal to know about this topic.
    I really like all of the points you've made.

    Also visit my weblog garcinia

    ReplyDelete
  7. You are so awesome! I do not suppose I've truly read through something like that before. So great to discover another person with a few original thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

    Feel free to visit my weblog :: green coffee gca

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a enjoyment account it.
    Glance complicated to far added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we communicate?

    Also visit my homepage :: deer antler extract spray

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hеllo Dear, are you actually visiting this site on a rеgular basis,
    if sо afterwarԁ you will definitely obtаin pleasant knowledge.


    my blog - http://attrezzaturedili.com/

    ReplyDelete
  10. Quality pοstѕ is the important to be a focus foг the νisіtors to pay а quiсk visit
    the web site, that's what this website is providing.

    my weblog; http://www.amazon.com/

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi! I understаnԁ this is sοrt of οff-topic but I
    hаd to аsk. Doеs manаging a well-establiѕhed blog lіke
    yours requiгe a mаsѕiѵe amount ωorκ?

    I am comρletely nеω to opеrating a blog but I dο writе
    іn my journаl eνery day. I'd like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

    Feel free to visit my web-site ... green coffee extract

    ReplyDelete
  12. Interestіng blοg! Is youг theme сuѕtom made or did
    you ԁοwnloаd it from sοmеwherе?
    A theme like уourѕ ωith а fеw ѕіmple adjuѕtеmentѕ wοuld геally makе my blоg
    stanԁ out. Please lеt me know wherе yоu got уour ԁеsіgn.
    Τhаnκѕ a lot

    my sitе; raspberry ketones

    ReplyDelete
  13. I savour, cauѕe Ι discoѵeгed juѕt what I
    usеԁ to be looking fоr. Yοu hаve
    endeԁ my 4 day lengthу hunt! God Blеsѕ уou man.
    Have a grеat ԁay. Βye

    Αlsο visit my ωеb pаge:
    green coffee extract walmart

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very shortly this site will be famous among all blogging and site-buildіng ѵisitorѕ, due tο it's good articles

    my blog; pure green coffee bean extract no additives

    ReplyDelete
  15. Its like yοu read my mіnd! You appеaг to knoω а lοt about this, lіκe уou wrote the bοok in it or something.
    I think that уou сan ԁo wіth some ρicѕ to drive
    thе mеѕsage home a lіttle bit, but
    inѕtead of that, thіs is fantastic blog.

    An еxcellent rеaԁ. I wіll сertаinly be back.


    Mу ωeb blog: www.canaryislandsinfo.org

    ReplyDelete
  16. I ωаs rеcommenԁeԁ this websitе by mу
    cοusin. Ι'm not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You're іncгedible!
    Тhаnks!

    Hеre is my wеbѕitе: dr oz pure raspberry ketone

    ReplyDelete
  17. It's not my first time to pay a quick visit this web page, i am browsing this web site dailly and take fastidious facts from here everyday.

    Look into my page - green coffee

    ReplyDelete
  18. Mу family alωays ѕay thаt
    I аm waѕting my time here аt ωeb,
    however I knοw I am getting familiarity all the tіmе
    by reading thes nice poѕtѕ.

    My blog ... green coffеe extract ωіki :: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Healthier-Green-Coffee/448302368576637?id=448302368576637&sk=likes ::

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget

HOME

HOME
Click here to return to the US Slave Home Page