EDWIN CHIU: Chinese people in Mississippi?
What happened there?
NATASHA DEL TORO: A family's searchfor their roots leads to an unexpected part of America.
BALDWIN CHIU: Last thing I thought I'd ever find in Mississippi was a Chinese Museum.
DEL TORO: A surprising legacy in the Mississippi Delta.
CHARLES CHIU: It's so amazing to find out the family history I never knew.
I never expected to know.
DEL TORO: "Far East Deep South," on America ReFramed.
♪ ♪ ♪ BALDWIN: Meeting people for the first time, people tend to ask, "Where are you from?"
And I would always say, "Well, I was born in San Francisco, and I was raised in Sacramento."
But then, many times, they'll ask, "Where are you really from?"
I know what they're trying to ask, and basically, my answer is, "Well, my dad was born in China."
But honestly, I didn't know anything else more than that.
♪ Growing up, it was always kind of a mystery about my dad and his side of the family.
Whenever my brother and I would ask him about my grandfather, he would just say, "Oh, it's a sad story.
It's, it's not a big deal," um...
But usually, he just kind of ignored the topic.
I don't really remember much of what my dad told me about my grandfather.
I don't even know if he said too much at all.
I felt like it was just something that he didn't want to talk about or just was never talked about in general in our house.
♪ BALDWIN: One day, we came across this photo of a gravestone, and it said "Lou" on it.
♪ And that's when my dad finally told us that this is where my grandfather and great-grandfather were buried.
But not in China-- in Mississippi!
Chinese people in Mississippi?
♪ What happened there?
♪ (trolley bell dinging) ♪ ♪ ♪ BALDWIN: Over the years, we'd always visit my great-grandmother's grave.
But when I asked my dad why we never visited my grandfather's grave in Mississippi, he'd just say, "There's no point going there."
CHARLES: I was one years old, and my father took the picture with me.
I haven't seen him since then.
Well, I see other kids raising up with father and mother.
I had no father.
That's, just feels something is missing.
Something's supposed to be there, but it's not there.
♪ I was born in southern part of China, or southern part of Canton.
The name of the city is called Sunwui.
My mother and sister left behind in China.
So only my grandmother and I left Hong Kong and came to U.S. ♪ At that time, I was about age 14.
My grandmother was my sole guardian.
♪ We came by the ship.
The name is SS President Cleveland.
(seagulls squawking, ship horn blowing) Life was pretty tough for me in U.S.
I had no family.
No fun except had to work and support my grandmother.
Her feet was bound.
♪ ("Soh Lo" by Only Won playing) (rapping in Cantonese) ♪ If you still don't know what I'm talking about ♪ (rapping in Cantonese) ♪ Cuz I'm ABC, an American-born Chinese ♪ ♪ Not from overseas and I'm not Japanese ♪ ♪ Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, or Korean ♪ ♪ People get us confused at times ♪ ♪ Cuz they think we're all the same ♪ BALDWIN: When I was a kid, we went to Chinatown pretty much every weekend just to eat dim sum.
I guess that's one way my dad made sure we didn't forget our Chinese heritage.
♪ It was kind of weird that my dad actually came to the U.S. at an early age, but yet he was still very traditional.
I mean, I knew I was Chinese by ethnicity, but I always felt American.
I loved American things.
I loved football.
I loved hip-hop.
And my dad just really wasn't into all that.
"Just be educated.
Just go to school.
None of that other stuff matters."
He'd be, like, "Turn that noise off!
What is that noise you're listening to?"
(hip-hop playing in background) (laughter) (turntable scratch) EDWIN: Boyee!
BALDWIN: Aw, man... BALDWIN: I think just growing up this whole time, I didn't get him, and he didn't get me.
You know, I think he thought I was the American one, and he wasn't the American one.
♪ CHARLES: Life was not like today's teenager.
Chinese young people, they listen to you, because they grow up like that.
But in America, they don't listen to you.
They think the older folks, you don't know anything.
Actually, we older folks know everything.
Dupont Street, that's this.
This used to be called Dupont.
(Baldwin speaking Cantonese, Charles speaking English) (both speaking English) BALDWIN: Yes.
BALDWIN: So here is Dupont Street... CHARLES: Yeah, that's this.
REBECCA: Charles, he try very hard to fulfill the father's role.
But it's hard because he had no previous father's figure in his life.
♪ When my daughter was born and I saw how my dad held her in his arms, and I was, like, "Wow, this is a grandfather- grandchild relationship."
And it's the first time I ever saw a grandfather- grandchild relationship in my family, because I never had that.
(Baldwin cooing) And if, if my daughter has a deeper root in this country than I do, then she should know, as well.
I mean, if my grandfather really is in Mississippi, we should probably go there.
But my dad didn't feel the same way.
Baldwin's been trying very, very, very hard.
Charles, he doesn't really...
I don't know.
He doesn't really care or whatever.
BALDWIN: My dad was getting older, getting slower, and I just really didn't want any regrets about learning more about our past.
♪ We're trying to figure out some type of thing to do with my, with my parents.
My wife reminded me, you know, it's their 40th anniversary, so maybe we should do something significant or something big.
REBECCA: I did tell them, "I've never been in Mississippi.
Maybe we should go to Mississippi all together."
BALDWIN: My mom wanted to go to Mississippi?
I should've had my mom ask my dad.
REBECCA: I got excited!
I actually really excited to go.
Ready or not, Mississippi, here we come!
("Mississippi Minute" by Steve Azar playing) ♪ But in a Mississippi minute ♪ ♪ You can take your sweet time ♪ ♪ In a Mississippi minute ♪ ♪ You're never running behind ♪ ♪ ♪ Just like that muddy river ♪ ♪ Moving slow ♪ ♪ Ain't no hurry ♪ ♪ That's how life goes ♪ ♪ In a Mississippi minute ♪ ♪ That's right ♪ We didn't really have much planned other than, let's get a hotel, and let's just drive down there and see what we could see.
BALDWIN: Dad, why are we here?
Why are we down here?
(Rebecca speaking Cantonese) REBECCA: What is xun gen?
CHARLES: "Searching for the roots."
BALDWIN: That's what we said in English earlier.
EDWIN: That's what it is.
- Going back to our roots.
REBECCA: And then when we go there, we actually don't know what we are going and where we're going.
EDWIN: I looked on Google Maps and I just figured it's a small town.
So months in advance, I called City Hall, waited for a response, but I got nothing.
I told my wife, Donna, my plan was literally drive around the town, look for some green areas, and be, like, "There's a cemetery."
How hard could it be to find a Chinese man's name?
(music playing on radio) BALDWIN: All right, so we are heading out.
- That's right.
♪ BALDWIN: ♪ BALDWIN: CHARLES: REBECCA: REBECCA: Hey, driving!
BALDWIN: CHARLES: Hey, driving!
(Rebecca chuckling) REBECCA: You're crazy.
CHARLES: Don't turn your head then.
BALDWIN: So, who came first, your grandfather or your father?
CHARLES: Oh, grandfather.
BALDWIN: So, your grandfather came first... CHARLES: And then my grandmother came later.
I don't know how my father came.
He managed to operate a little grocery store.
BALDWIN: CHARLES: REBECCA: CHARLES: EDWIN: CHARLES: ♪ EDWIN: About a week before we were heading out there, I get a response from City Hall, and they say, "We don't know anything, but you might want to check into this museum."
♪ BALDWIN: Oh, look at this!
(door squeaking) Wow... Last thing I thought I'd ever find in Mississippi was a Chinese Museum.
Every inch was covered with items from Chinese grocery stores.
And I was, like, "This is all from Mississippi?"
EDWIN: Pictures of stores... Chinese people who were veterans...
Multiple different families, and I just thought, "Okay, this is interesting.
"I guess there was more than just my grandfather and my great-grandfather."
♪ EMILY JONES: Emily.
CHARLES: JONES: EDWIN: CHARLES: JONES: Through Delta State's archive, we preserve the history of the Mississippi Delta, and the Chinese community is an integral part of that history.
So when the Chinese were first brought into the Delta, they were brought to fill a void between Black and white.
After the slaves are freed, planters got together and were looking for people who could work on their plantations.
Guys got together and sent over two ships to recruit Chinese men.
They arrived in New Orleans and came up the Mississippi River and began working in the plantations.
That didn't mean that they were all recruited just to Mississippi.
But they were into Arkansas and on up into Tennessee.
When these men arrived and began to work in the fields, they realized pretty quickly that they were not going to get the economic boost that they thought they were going to get.
And so they slid into owning grocery stores.
♪ I don't remember hearing about Chinese people other than on the West Coast, railroads, San Francisco.
Definitely not in the South.
So that was brand-new information to me.
(indistinct chatter) CHARLES: President Cleveland.
That's the boat I, I came from.
BALDWIN: Oh, you came up on this?
- This is what you came on?
- Right here.
25th, I landed... on the ground of San Francisco.
And the 27th was the Thanksgiving Day.
And I had turkey!
JONES: You had turkey.
- First time turkey!
(Baldwin laughs) BALDWIN: Oh, that's, yeah... CHARLES: Yeah.
DONNA: The Chinese Exclusion Act was a law that was passed in 1882 that basically said Chinese people are not allowed to be laborers here, they're not allowed to become citizens.
♪ I took U.S. history.
I think I took A.P.
That was the first time I've actually even heard of it.
CHARLES: BALDWIN: What really bothered my dad was that Immigration did not understand that our family names came first, not last.
CHARLES: My name is Charles Chiu.
In Chinese, it would be Chiu But Yue.
But how come my father's name is K.C.
Lou, and my grandfather's Charles J. Lou?
The "Lou" came from my grandfather, Chiu Jung Lou.
So Lou became the last name.
My father's name, K.C., means Kim Chong.
But in Chinese, it would be Chiu Kim Chong.
However, at the time when I became a U.S. citizen, I insist to go back to Chiu is my last name.
("Stars and Stripes Forever" plays) EDWIN: My dad was talking to Emily, and then he mentioned to Emily my grandfather's name, and he just kept saying, "K.C.
I saw Emily thinking for a second, and I thought, "Does she have something?"
So then she ended up walking him from the main area down the hall and said, "Follow me here."
♪ REBECCA AND CHARLES: K.C.
CHARLES: Oh, my God!
JONES: There it is.
CHARLES: Look, look, look!
JONES: That's him!
Baldwin... (excited chatter, baby fussing) CHARLES: That's my father's Bible!
- Oh, my God!
- We have to look at everything.
- That's my father's Bible!
- That's amazing!
(laughter) DONNA: I bet this is the best part of your job, huh?
- It's fun to reconnect.
- To see it in real life.
CHARLES: Oh, Emily, bless you.
Oh, my goodness!
♪ (crying): Oh, God... God is good.
God is good.
(sniffles) ♪ REBECCA: I just turn around because it is very emotional.
But we're happy he found the Bible.
♪ EDWIN: So before we got to Mississippi, I had maybe contacted a few people and tried to find the senator that helped bring my dad over from China.
'Cause my dad always talked about how grateful he was for the senator for being able to help him.
Dad, this is Woods Eastland.
This is Senator Eastland's son.
- Oh, is that right?!
- How are you?
- I'm Charles Chiu.
- Nice to meet you, Mr. Chiu.
I really didn't know much about Senator James Eastland.
EASTLAND: Senator Jim Eastland was my father.
He began serving in January of 1943 in the Senate.
♪ He was the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization.
So somehow they got us get on their special bill to allow myself and my grandmother to come to U.S. EASTLAND: It was sort of a courtesy among the senators that if one senator wanted a special bill for something in his state, that the rest would support it if that man would support the special interest in another state.
Later on, I found out that Senator Eastland was for segregation, and I was surprised about that.
♪ We're having lunch with Woods, and I get a call from Emily to come back to the museum.
CHARLES: - Bassie.
CHARLES: John Bassie.
BASSIE: CHARLES: BASSIE: CHARLES: That's my father.
BASSIE: BALDWIN: No, he never did.
CHARLES: BASSIE: It does.
CHARLES: That was her.
BASSIE: She was a real small lady.
BASSIE: Her feet were bound.
CHARLES: Yeah, right.
CHARLES: Her feet were bound, yeah, right.
The first thing I remember is the bound feet.
She sort of wobbled a little bit when she walked.
CHARLES: During the Qing Dynasty, women bound their feet.
Well, that's another story.
Walking around is not, not so convenient.
CHARLES: BASSIE: Yep, that's right.
EDWIN: So I couldn't believe that I was meeting a guy who had one-on-one interaction with my grandfather.
Mr. Lou would throw a baseball to us or a tennis ball, or nothing else but a rock.
And if we would be playing behind the stores throwing rocks in the bogue, he would show us that he could throw further than we could.
And he could!
WOMAN: Oh, that's right!
BASSIE: My father said, "If Ms. Lou wants fish heads, you get the fish heads for her."
And about two hours later, she brings us a mess of rice, peas, and fish heads.
And I don't know whether my parents ate any of it or not, but I didn't.
(laughs) BALDWIN: GABRIELLA: BASSIE: Is the building still there?
GABRIELLA and BASSIE: BALDWIN: Yeah, that's what we're trying to do.
BALDWIN: Mr. John Bassie is giving me a little history lesson on my grandfather and my great-grandfather, and we're, is leading us to Pace to find the store that my grandfather and great-grandfather owned.
BASSIE: Okay, no.
Your grandfather's store is not here.
Because it would be...
It would butt up against this wall right here.
BALDWIN: Next to the Pace Fun Shop.
I don't know what that was, but... EDWIN: This is the small town of Pace.
There's Dad waving over there.
This spot right here, approximately right where that trailer is to here used to be my grandfather and my great-grandfather's store here.
REBECCA: And we saw the next one, couple store next to it.
And there is the Chinese store, is still open!
♪ Well, the store has been my whole life.
Two doors down, Charlie Lou had a business.
We've had as many as four Chinese stores in Pace.
♪ All the siblings, they studied and went into a profession.
But I don't know why I'm still here.
(laughs) ♪ BALDWIN: There it is.
♪ (indistinct chatter) WOMAN: Keep going.
It's like a little way's down.
EDWIN: Oh, I see it right here.
BALDWIN: Whoa, right in the front.
There it is!
♪ So much has happened today in just a few hours.
So being here finally was quite emotional.
♪ ♪ BALDWIN: My dad always said to us during our trip, "I have no idea what that store's name was."
And we kept thinking, how will we ever find out?
We get this phone call, and it was Jeannie Dunn, and she apparently heard about us through Emily.
They said, "Hey!
"Can we meet with you in the morning?
We heard that you went by the store."
This is my dad, Charles.
This is Emerald, right?
BALDWIN: Emerald Dunn.
- Oh, is that right?
BALDWIN: And they bought your dad's store, and you won't believe what she just showed me.
They found the obituary for your father.
REBECCA: Oh, my God!
♪ BALDWIN: Emerald has this big scrapbook, and she opens up the page to where we see photos of my great-grandfather in a wheelchair, my great-grandmother standing next to him.
CHARLES: BALDWIN: So this was, like, the scrapbook that... Who put this scrapbook together?
JEANNIE: Jimmy's dad.
BALDWIN: Oh, your dad?
BALDWIN: (exclaiming, laughing) BALDWIN: CHARLES: EDWIN: BALDWIN: Oh, my God!
EMERALD: I was trying to find the originals.
CHARLES: Take a good picture.
♪ CHARLES: I was amazed to see so many pictures and the story from them, you know, the... BALDWIN: Almost exactly.
REBECCA: REBECCA: They point out the letter that Charles' father sent to Dunn's father.
And my wife starts reading it, and then she says, "You got to read this!"
LOU (dramatized): "Dear Dunn, "As you know, I always love children, "especially those two cute little rascals.
"It's really too bad I can't have my kids with me.
"I'm willing to give everything that I got "plus 20 years of my life to have them with me now.
All those years, my dad thought my grandfather didn't love him.
You know, this is a really big thing for Charles to learn, too.
And see that his father actually care about them.
♪ I'm so glad they make the trip.
REBECCA: (laughter) ♪ ♪ EDWIN: So after the trip, the main thoughts I had coming away, it was emotional.
It was surreal.
Especially when literally all we thought we were going to do was drive around a small town and look for a cemetery and not talk to anyone.
Of course, Charles is very amazed meeting those people.
BALDWIN: It was a lot to process, and I think that he had a hard time understanding why his family was separated for all those years.
BALDWIN: Who's that?
LARISSA: Oh, wait, that's you?
CHARLES: Yeah, that's me.
(in Cantonese): REBECCA: 14 years old.
14 years old.
LARISSA: So that, you said, that's your mom.
- So that's K.C.
CHARLES: And then this is my grandma.
She came back to Hong Kong... LARISSA: Yeah.
- ...from Mississippi, okay?
(in Cantonese): LARISSA: Look how handsome!
CHARLES (in Cantonese): Oh, here, here, here!
This is when I first in... REBECCA: In the military... CHARLES: Basic training in, in Texas, Air Force.
At that time, there was a draft law.
Once they draft you, you go to the Army for at least two years.
So how can I leave my grandmother for two years?
It's not possible.
The reason I joined the reserve in those days is still can come back to take care of my grandmother.
During the weekend, don't know what else to do.
Some people go to church on Sunday, so I joined them.
The first time I went, the chaplain... (voice breaking): ...praying to the congregation.
(sniffles) ♪ The chaplain said, "Heavenly Father..." (weeping): My tear... My tear just came out automatically.
(sniffles) So in my mind, what is a Heavenly Father?
I never had a father.
(weeping): I'm sorry.
♪ BALDWIN: Initially, I think my dad was happy about going to Mississippi.
But after we got back, I realized that growing up without a father left a big hole in his life.
♪ EDWIN: So thinking back, my dad was pretty quiet a lot and, I don't know, maybe after everything I've learned, it helps me understand there's a lot more going on within my dad that caused him to behave or react how he did.
♪ Before the trip started, I think I was content with going there one time, but after we got back, more people from Mississippi started contacting us, saying that they knew my grandfather K.C., and they wanted to meet us.
I just figured, wow, there's a lot of people that had information.
There are so many more Chinese there from back in the day.
Just made me think, there's got to be other people we should talk to.
What else could I learn about my grandfather?
Maybe talking to more people will help my dad get to know his father, and at the same time, maybe we could learn more about our history in the South.
♪ ♪ JONES: Meeting up with the Chiu family spurred the next people, group of people that I thought, "Ah, you really need to meet."
So putting them in touch with historians and our local friends was important.
It is nice to meet you.
JOAN ROGERS WALTON: I knew all your family.
Your grandfather was a very popular man, very well-liked.
I lived out in the country from Pace, but I went to school in Pace, and we shopped at K.C.
♪ I remember that he brought us soy sauce from China.
- (laughs) The real soy sauce in the cutest little brown crocks.
made many trips to China.
- Many trips?
We knew that he had a wife and children in China.
Most of the Chinese immigrants who came to the United States in the 19th and early 20th century were young men.
And then they found, after some time that they were here, that they wanted to marry.
Now, one of the problems with that is that Chinese women were largely prohibited to enter the United States.
Chinese men in the United States have very few options, because in many states, there are anti-miscegenation laws on the books that make it very difficult for them to partner legally with white women.
♪ CHANG: Chinese men could return to China, marry there, and stay for a while, father a family, and then return to the United States to continue to work.
It was like a long-distance commute for work.
I was probably either eight or nine, and we were living in a village.
No income at all at that time.
The main income was sent back to China from America.
♪ HONG: So children in China grow up without knowing their fathers.
The impact is quite dramatic and it lasts for many generations.
♪ (birds twittering) A.V.
: That's Charlie and Ms. Lou.
TOM: Yeah, that's Charlie and Ms. Lou.
BALDWIN: So you remember them.
- Oh, yes.
I remember her, she had her feet bound, and she would walk, you know...
: She had bound feet.
She couldn't... She'd just... just struggle along.
I remember going in the store as a small boy.
There were two barrels on the floor.
One was a barrel with dill pickles.
There was another barrel that had pickled pig feet, and over on the counter, there was a big hoof of cheese.
MAN: This is A.V., this is A.V.
This is Baldwin's mother.
and this is Baldwin's father.
: Did you ever come to Pace when Pace was alive?
- Uh, no, no that was before I came.
- I knew Ms. Lou.
- Everybody... - Yeah.
- She had trouble walking.
Her feet had been bound.
- Yeah, right, but she... she walked slowly.
TOM: That's you?
- (laughing): Yeah.
- Oh, my goodness.
- That's me.
- That's... look at that.
: That ain't you!
(laughter) BALDWIN: So this is my father.
- Well, you know... your father... looks more like I remember Charlie looking.
CHARLES: When I came to America, I did not even have English name.
I thought of, my grandfather's name is called Charles.
So my English name actually to remember my grandfather.
♪ RACHEL TATE: My grandmother and her husband, they built the Bogue Drugstore, which, that's the piece of, the Bogue Drugstore in Pace.
BALDWIN: So they were store owners on the same street.
- Street, on the same street, just down from Charlie Lou.
Let's see, there's the drugstore.
So Charlie-- the grocery store would have been right here.
BALDWIN: Ah... (door opening) TATE: K.C.
Lou had gone back to China for a visit and brought my grandmother bulbs back from China.
BALDWIN: Oh, this.
So these are the flowers that K.C.
Lou brought back from China?
TATE: That is a narcissus bulb, often called a paperwhite.
The aroma is still very strong even to this day.
♪ How've you been?
- Good, good.
- Nice to see you.
- Long trip.
- Yeah, good, good, good-- come on in.
- Come on.
BALDWIN: So we found this letter.
It's from my grandfather to a friend of his, but then he mentions another person.
♪ CHOW: So J.T.
is my dad.
♪ We were all born on a farm that he purchased in the '30s.
I found out recently that my mom married when she was 16 in China to my dad.
She didn't, was not able to come over until she was 25-- they were separated for nine years because of the Exclusion Act.
My older brother went to school in Pace.
He would have lunch at your grandfather's store.
♪ HAPPY IMM: Hey, Baldwin, right?
BALDWIN: How you doing?
IMM: Oh, pretty good, have a seat.
Name's on the door, right?
BALDWIN (chuckles): Yeah.
IMM: My name's Happy Imm.
I was born and raised in Mississippi.
I remember him well.
Sometimes I would stay late for a night basketball game, and my dad would forget to pick me up, so I'd be, walk down to K.C.
Lou's store and wait for my dad, and my dad doesn't show up.
would drive me home.
I think my parents appreciated it more than I did.
(chuckles) I, for one, have a picture of myself taken by K.C.
It is a little on the lonesome side, right?
- Just one of my favorite mementos from years past.
♪ BALDWIN: While we're at Happy's place, he gives me this envelope, and I pull out a photo of my grandfather.
Do you have a copy?
IMM: That's yours.
- At my age, I don't plan to hold on to it much longer.
(laughter) BALDWIN: And I can't believe it, because I've never seen this photo before.
♪ I continue to be amazed at all the people that actually knew my grandfather and were still around to tell us these stories.
♪ LARISSA: How does it feel for you to visit the old store?
- It's, uh...
I never been here or live here, so I...
I don't know, it's a mixed feeling.
♪ BALDWIN: It's always hard to know how my dad really feels about things.
I just really hope that we did the right thing by coming back here.
LEVON JACKSON: Well, I take it this the mystery man.
(chuckles) Pace is west of Cleveland, we're somewhat as a neighboring town.
Small town with a big future.
The Chinese and African American communities have grown very much together over the years.
All of us, the Chinese and the African Americans, like the same food.
'Cause you know Black people love Chinese rice.
(laughs) And Chinese began to utilize the hog in the way that the African Americans did.
BALDWIN: I was surprised to find out that their store was in the middle of a predominantly Black community, and that pretty much their entire client base, customers were Black.
There was a small group of Chinese that came and opened the stores in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.
That was groundbreaking, because there were no other races that did that, and even unto this day, no other races did anything like that-- only the Chinese.
They had a competitive edge in one sense that a lot of the Blacks didn't feel particularly welcome in the white grocery stores.
CHEYENNE WOODRUFF: I would say we had better experiences with the Chinese families here than we did most of the white families here.
Growing up in Mississippi in the '40s & '50s, there were certain people we knew to just stay away from.
The Chinese people mostly were people that made you feel welcome and at home, and we didn't have to be afraid to be around them.
LEVON JACKSON: The Blacks had a respect for the Chinese.
The Chinese didn't make 'em feel like a second-class citizen.
♪ BALDWIN: And then I think about how me and my brother were raised in California not knowing anything about what happened here in Mississippi.
I mean, what were Chinese people even doing out here?
JUNG: Well, Chinese in the South had limited opportunities of what they could do.
Yeah, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act had a big impact on Chinese in America, because it did not allow any laborers to come in.
Chinese were discriminated against from the moment they began to come to the United States in the early 1850s.
Anti-Chinese sentiment really rises after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
They believed Chinese were taking their jobs away.
CAROLYN CHAN: Well, my great-grandfather was one of the railroad workers to help build the Transcontinental Railroad.
♪ After he worked on the railroad, he brought the family and took them to Mississippi, so he was one of the first Chinese to own a grocery store in Gunnison, Mississippi.
BALDWIN: We've learned a lot more about the Chinese grocery stores here.
In fact, one of the things we found out was that my great-grandfather actually extended credit to some of his customers when they couldn't pay.
NEWSREEL NARRATOR: We were a discouraged people, because we were the first to lose our jobs when old man Depression came along.
One out of every four of us was on relief.
IMM: During the 1930s, the Great Depression, Charlie Lou's credit was very good and he was very generous in letting people have groceries from the store, and a lot of people survived because of his generosity at that time.
♪ JUNG: The Chinese, they were willing to give credit, which would not have been possible in a, sort of a white grocery store.
♪ LAVERN WOODRUFF: ROBERT VOSS: Sharecropping was a restrictive system where former slaves were not able to operate in the open market, but were instead selling back their crops to their former owners.
They did not get to negotiate how much money they made.
TYREE BOYD-PATES: The sharecropping, unfortunately, never really gave the financial security needed to the generations of African Americans who would till or work the land subsequently.
BALDWIN: I really wish people knew about the history of the early Asian Americans and the Black community when there were grocery stores and they were living together and in the same community.
Maybe we'd treat each other a little differently today.
There's Harold's, that was Ralph's...
So it was three Chinese stores right in a row?
EMERALD: Yeah, this would be the original... - And this was our store?
- And this should be our store.
- Both mine and yours.
- Yeah, uh-huh.
- And then this space here is the living-- this is where you guys lived?
- Right, the... - And probably where my grandfather lived and they all lived.
DAVID DUNN: You're always stuck between the line of Black and white, so where you gonna live?
But if you live behind the store, no one's gonna argue, no one's gonna question you.
Well, communities of color, residentially, could only own property that wasn't near white people.
CHARLES: My grandmother described me how life was in Pace, Mississippi.
You always have race segregation, and then, uh, they had to work so hard just to make a living.
And then they had to save nickels and dimes-- literally speaking, nickels and dimes.
♪ FRIEDA QUON: I grew up in the '40s and '50s.
Everything was very segregated, I mean, it was Black, white.
We were just really in the middle.
JUNG: In the Civil War era, obviously, Blacks were segregated.
And socially, after they were freed, Jim Crow laws were instituted to sort of keep them in a lower status.
The Jim Crow laws were a suite of laws that prohibited African Americans from intermingling with Caucasian Americans in the Deep South.
And this impacted Chinese Americans, African Americans, and any other community of color, and those impacts are still felt today.
I had my own discriminations against me, but to be put aside from different race groups, I can't even comprehend that, fathom it.
BOYD-PATES: As we all are probably familiar with, African Americans weren't allowed through the front doors of these businesses.
So they were relegated to the back entrances.
♪ And so when you go to a movie, the whites are downstairs, the Blacks are upstairs, and we think, "Well, that's not right."
WILLIE JACKSON: Sometimes the Chinese people, the younger people that we made friends with, when they come to the movie, they would come upstairs and be with us.
BALDWIN: To learn that the Chinese community was integral to this community, which is mostly Black, just amazed about how a level of trust and how relationships can be developed between people that were so different.
♪ ♪ He's a-calling you ♪ He's a-calling you BALDWIN: We were talking about pallbearers, and then we saw Kenneth Gong.
EDDIE GONG: Yup.
BALDWIN: Is that...?
- That's my dad.
Well, my dad came over in 1937.
When the war started, he lied about his age and joined the Army-- he joined at 16, and the reason he did that is because he wanted to become a citizen quicker.
- Obviously, my grandfather and your father were friends.
- Where would they have known each other then, if he wasn't here?
- Well, probably socializing, I mean, the only time they would socialize would be on Sunday afternoons, 'cause everybody worked all the time.
♪ LUCK WING: ♪ LUCK WING: And the children would go along with the family.
And the men would cook, and the women would all sit in the corner, grumbling about how bad the men treated them.
(chuckles) ♪ My brother Edwin did go down to Pace and work for K.C., and he was best friends with K.C.
He was a pallbearer at K.C.
I was born in Beulah, Mississippi.
Our father moved us to Greenville, because we were not to allowed to go to school.
And it wasn't any better in Greenville, so we moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
And from there, we moved on to Arkansas, where there's better opportunity for a store.
When I was a little girl and I was going to school, I was not able to go to white schools because of my race.
When the children were not allowed to attend the public schools in a certain town, churches would get together and help the Chinese community to either establish the mission school or to bring in teachers.
♪ BALDWIN: Growing up, I read about segregation, and I thought that it only affected the Black community.
I just didn't really think that it happened to the Chinese, too.
♪ CHAN: I had to attend a segregated one-room schoolhouse of all Chinese children until the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
STAN LOU: They're allowing us into their schools, but the whites never let us forget that we were not white.
That we were second-class still.
No matter how well I would do academically, there'd really be no praise from the teacher.
They would not say, "That Chinese kid."
They would say, "That Chinaman," or even worse sometime, "That (bleep)."
ARTHUR HOLMES: And I always said a long time ago, if any white person ever called me-- I guess I shouldn't say that-- well, the N-word, I said, "If anyone ever called me that word, I was going to probably slap him," you know.
In 1974, I was in Clarksdale, shopping, and this little white girl came up to me.
(chuckles) She says, "Hey, (bleep)."
(chuckles) I just looked down, because I was shocked, you know.
And I know how the Chinese felt when they came here, and they were treated the same way.
STAN LOU: I was always given constant reminders that, you know, "All right, Stan, "you might be the smartest kid in the class, but you're still just a Chinaman."
♪ BALDWIN: It made me kind of sad to think about some of the older people talking about the hardships, and then I started thinking about how, man, that's so messed up that I didn't even learn about this stuff in school.
It's like, I'm growing up in school where kids are making fun of me for being Chinese, but then I don't learn anything about segregation affecting me or people that look like me.
HOLMES: We still have people who perpetuate that kind of racism.
You know, by now, everybody ought to know how hurtful that is when you treat somebody less than a human being, you know?
♪ If you don't know by now that we are all the same, you know, then something has to be wrong with you.
♪ ♪ CHILD: K.C.
In those days, true-- segregation not only the school.
They don't allow the Chinese even the graveyard.
You had to have your own race's cemetery, that was a fact.
CATHY TOM WONG: This old cemetery that we're in now, it was established in the early 1920s.
And it was established because the Chinese had no place to be buried.
We could not be buried in the white cemetery, and we could not be buried in the Black cemetery.
So they had to find a way to bury our families.
CHARLES: I was told by my grandmother, in those days, when they bury here, that's the first Chinese allowed in the white people's cemetery.
♪ SHARON NEFF: There were some of the leaders in the Chinese mission who had changed their name because they did not want their name to show that they were Chinese.
♪ Was I proud to be Chinese?
And I always felt like I was...
I was being singled out for being different.
I don't want my mother to speak Chinese to me in public, because I felt embarrassed by that.
♪ In school, I was one of four Chinese people there.
Elementary, definitely got teased for it.
I wanted to have blue eyes and blond hair.
I thought I was Italian till I was about six years old, because, you know, all the kids that I grew up with were Italian.
BALDWIN: I remember going to elementary school, and they were, like, "Oh!
You're Chinese, you must know karate!"
And, you know, of course, I didn't really challenge them or tell them that karate's actually Japanese, and they all jumped me, kicked me up against the fence.
I remember going back to the teacher, crying.
DAVID: As a kid, nothing you can do about it, you just suck it up.
And my parents, I know it was hurtful for them, and they'd basically tell us, too, "You got to suck it up, that's the way it is."
CHAN: When I was a little girl and I was called names, my mother always said, "Chalk it up to their ignorance, they don't understand who we are."
MARTHA: There may have been some challenges, but we're proud to be Chinese and Americans, too, at the same time, so I don't think we're any different.
♪ BALDWIN: Like, how come you didn't tell me and Edwin, like, when we were young, why we never came here, we never knew until so, well-- what's your reason, Dad?
CHARLES: Well, there's no reason.
You guys don't have this kind of interest in those, when you were a kid, you know?
And you worry about basketball and those sort of things.
So I don't take this out to tell you things.
- You were the one not taking it out and educate them!
- I know until they-- well... ♪ JOAN: And I remember when K.C.
died, how grieved everyone was.
CHARLES: Well, I remember I was about eight or nine years old, and then my mother receive a letter, and saying that my father was dead.
And I was just a young kid at that time.
I didn't even know what was going on.
♪ JOAN: He died in the hospital in Cleveland, had appendicitis and died during or after the appendectomy.
♪ CHARLES: My first time, when they brought me to the cemetery... (voice breaking): I cry so, I cry so bad, you know?
Every time, I think of my grandmother, I feel very sad.
In my mind, I don't have a real father on Earth.
♪ (sniffs): I'm sorry, every time I mention about how I live in those days, I just cannot hold it.
♪ He felt, "I have nothing," and now we just, you know, at least we have the later generation to know about his background.
♪ RADIO HOST: Prepare for cloudy skies today in San Francisco, with a chance of on-and-off sprinkles, and your average temps in the 60s.
And that's your weather forecast.
Traffic coming up after the break, but heads up for that upper deck crash of the Bay Bridge... BALDWIN: There we go.
(chuckles) Be careful, there we go.
CHARLES: On the right side.
BALDWIN: Look on the right.
- Wow, this is so much fun!
- Cali, can you see it?
WOMAN: Where are we going?
BALDWIN: We're going to the National Archives to look for documents, to co-review the documents with my dad.
CALI: There is a lot of cars here.
We're going so slow, Daddy!
(laughter) ♪ ♪ REBECCA: We have no idea what is that all about, and so Charles and I say, "Oh."
They say, "Come, then, take a look," and they found the files.
HONG: So if you walk into the National Archives, especially the San Bruno branch, on the West Coast, there are reams and reams of Chinese exclusion files.
These exclusion cases have become a rich resource for ordinary Americans who are trying to find out more about their own families, and they really are kind of one of the best ways we can understand the history of Chinese Exclusion in the United States.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was the only act to actually name an ethnic group for exclusion from the United States.
And this is why we say it is one of the most discriminatory acts ever passed.
It led to other similar disenfranchising acts of Congress.
CHANG: By 1924, there is now a landmark legislation that's highly restrictive of all but basically Northern and West European immigrants.
♪ BALDWIN: We met with one of the researchers, and they helped us find three sets of files-- one for my great-grandfather, my great-grandmother, and my grandfather.
CHARLES: Oh, my gosh!
(Rebecca gasps) BALDWIN: That's him!
CHARLES: Oh... REBECCA: BALDWIN: I grew up in San Francisco and had seen Angel Island all my life, but had no idea my family was actually on that island at one point.
HONG: Before the 1880s, there were no federal laws on the books that even mandated that new arrivals would have to be inspected at a port of entry.
So the Chinese Exclusion Act, or the demands of enforcing this law, really create the federal immigration bureaucracy that we know today.
BALDWIN: There were pages and pages of these interrogations where my grandfather was asked a ton of questions just to prove that he was allowed in this country.
REBECCA: Did you register?
No... BALDWIN: Oh, did he register, the Chinese Registry?
CHU: My grandfather came in 1906-- he was one of the many Chinese who were forced to carry papers on them at all times, and if they were not able to have those papers right on their persons, even if they were legally in the U.S., they could be deported.
And only the testimony of a white person could save them.
♪ BALDWIN: Now that we found these files, it really personalizes what the Chinese Exclusion Act was and how it really affected our family.
It's not just an old law that was passed a long time ago.
It was something that, that had consequences.
CHARLES: So one of the most effective ways that Chinese women could prove that they were part of the elite class was to show that they had bound feet.
CHARLES: HONG: So if you had bound feet, it was actually an effective way or strategy of entering the United States.
CHARLES: ♪ (woman gasps) WOMAN: Great-grandpa!
BALDWIN: Oh, my gosh.
Jew Lau, that's, that's C.J.
That's how he looked like when he was younger.
He's a good-looking man.
CHARLES: BALDWIN: (laughter) I really never knew anything about my great-grandfather Charlie Lou.
My dad just guessed that he came over at some point.
(indistinct chatter) BALDWIN: What?!
(woman gasps) BALDWIN: That's his birth certificate?
Oh, my gosh!
BALDWIN: The birth certificate says that he was born in San Francisco, not China.
WOMAN: BALDWIN: The fire was in '06.
BALDWIN: So we weren't sure about this at first, since we heard that many people claimed legal status after the 1906 earthquake and fire.
A lot of records were destroyed, but then I looked closely, and I saw that the birth certificate was authenticated in 1902.
And then we found supporting documents dating even earlier.
And I was not the first one in my family to be born in America.
♪ BALDWIN: (laughter) ♪ EDWIN: Honestly, the best thing I can say about finding out that my great-grandfather was born in the U.S. was, like, that was just so cool.
Especially that it was, you know, same place I was born, San Francisco.
So that was really, really cool.
And there's got to be a better word than "cool," but... That's just... (interviewer laughs) It's just awesome.
♪ CHARLES: It's so amazing to find out the family history I never knew, I never expected to know.
Now I know several generations ahead of me was born and worked and lived here.
♪ It's an amazing story.
It's very interesting.
(Charles laughs) CHARLES: You two should be the investigator.
Good job, good job.
(projector whirring) BALDWIN: Growing up, I didn't understand why it was so hard for my dad to open up.
But now I have a better understanding of what he went through.
He's starting to share more.
In fact, he dug out these 16-millimeter film reels that his grandmother had given him.
No one in our family even knew he had these, and my dad hadn't even seen the contents until now.
♪ And there he was: my grandfather K.C.
Then, we saw him holding my father as a baby.
This was the last time my grandfather saw my dad before he left China to come back home to the U.S. (Kevin So playing "Our America") ♪ ♪ We sailed across the water ♪ We soared across the sky ♪ Walked across the western border ♪ ♪ Our hearts and hopes held high ♪ ♪ My father and his father ♪ My mother and her child ♪ Sought a place where they could live ♪ ♪ Beyond the ocean wild ♪ We went in search of our America ♪ ♪ Raise the flag of our America ♪ ♪ Dreamed the dream of our America ♪ ♪ We came and made it our America ♪ ♪ ♪ My country, 'tis of thee ♪ Celebrate our legacy ♪ Weave us in your tapestry ♪ Write a page in history ♪ This is America ♪ Sweet land of liberty ♪ La la la ♪ La la la ♪ La la ♪ (woman vocalizing) ♪ I...
I see your trail ♪ I start out on my quest ♪ Where others have failed ♪ ♪