Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2016/Spring/Section 021/Chung Tai-pan

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Chung Tai-pan
BornChina
Diedunknown
NationalityChinese-American
OccupationLaundryman

Overview[edit]

Chung Tai-pan was a Chinese-American laundryman who lived in Savannah, Georgia. Gerald Chan Sieg, a local Chinese-American author[1] interviewed him for the Federal Writer's Project in 1939.

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Chung Tai-pan was born in southern China in the 1870s. Tai-pan went to school and immigrated to the United States to earn money, primarily to fund anti-Qing Dynasty political movements in his homeland. He eventually moved to Savannah, got married, and had several children. Although Tai-pan stressed his Chinese identity in his interview, he never went back to China, even after the Chinese revolution of 1911. He had considered returning to China several times, but did not; he was unable to see his parents before they died. [2]

Family Life and Career[edit]

Tai-pan had a highly multiethnic family circle. Several of his children married Caucasians, and his wife was a woman of mixed Chinese and Mexican ancestry. Initially, Tai-pan had had some concern about his children's marital choices, but he eventually supported them. In the interview, Tai-pan expressed his fundamental belief in racial equality several times, which he tied explicitly to his support for Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic party. Tai-pan's liberalism extended to the international sphere; he denounced the Japanese invasion of China. [3]

In America, Tai-pan gradually became wealthy as a laundryman, despite the Great Depression. Because of his wealth, as well as his conversion to Christianity, Tai-pan had a relatively high position in Savannah society. [4]

Death[edit]

Chung Tai-pan's death is unknown.

The Chinese Exclusion Act[edit]

In the late 1800s, there was large-scale migration to the United States from China. Chinese immigration to the West coast resulted in an upswing of nativist sentiment, which resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act stopped the immigration of all Chinese laborers to the United States [5]. To enforce this strict system, the American government established regulations for entry and exit permits for Chinese settlement and travel to the U.S. The act made it very difficult for Chinese families to be reunified and dramatically slowed down migration to the U.S. [6] Furthermore, it made it difficult for legal US residents or citizens to return to the country if they did not adequately follow regulations. As a result, many Chinese people in America did not return to China for fear of deportation. [7]

However, after the Chinese Exclusion Act, most Chinese were unable to come to the US. As a result, many Chinese-American communities declined, because of gender imbalances leading to low birth rates.[8]

Georgia's Chinese Community[edit]

In Georgia, the Chinese community was concentrated in three cities: Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah. The Chinese population in the three cities varied; in Augusta the Chinese population was large and wealthy, whereas Chinese-Americans in Atlanta were a smaller and more impoverished population. Savannah was midway between the two; the Chinese population was smaller than Augusta's and less wealthy, but some Chinese residents of the city were still able to establish successful businesses and careers for themselves. [9] [10]

Interracial Marriage[edit]

Beginning in the colonial era, many US states imposed laws restricting marriage between people of different races. These laws made marriage between races illegal, and in some cases sex as well. These laws served as a critical enforcement mechanism for slavery, and afterwards for Jim Crow. Only 8 states never had an restriction on interracial unions.[11]

In Georgia, as in much of the south, punishments for interracial marriage were very severe. Both sex and marriage between whites and African-Americans were illegal, and courts could legally impose corporal punishment on those found in violation of the law [12]. However, Chinese-White marriages were legal, but controversial. In the 1880s, in the town of Waynesboro, mobs attacked the town's burgeoning Chinese community, inflamed in large part because of an interracial marriage between a white woman and a Chinese man. [13] The Georgia State legislature attempted to make Chinese-white marriages illegal, as in other states [14] but it never passed due to public pressure from both the state's small Chinese community as well as some whites..[15]

Citations[edit]

  1. "Oct. 1, 1910-June 30, 2005: A Poet, a Writer and a Civic SupporterHEAD." Oct. 1, 1910-June 30, 2005: A Poet, a Writer and a Civic Supporter. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.
  2. "Folder 252: Sieg, Gerald Chan (interviewer): Laundryman :: Federal Writers Project Papers." Folder 252: Sieg, Gerald Chan (interviewer): Laundryman :: Federal Writers Project Papers. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/03709/id/717.
  3. "Folder 252: Sieg, Gerald Chan (interviewer): Laundryman :: Federal Writers Project Papers." Folder 252: Sieg, Gerald Chan (interviewer): Laundryman :: Federal Writers Project Papers. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/03709/id/717.
  4. "Folder 252: Sieg, Gerald Chan (interviewer): Laundryman :: Federal Writers Project Papers." Folder 252: Sieg, Gerald Chan (interviewer): Laundryman :: Federal Writers Project Papers. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/03709/id/717.
  5. "Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)." Open Collections Program: Immigration to the US,. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html.
  6. Asian American Experience: Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. U of Illinois, 2013. Print.
  7. Asian American Experience: Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. U of Illinois, 2013. Print.
  8. Asian American Experience: Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. U of Illinois, 2013. Print.
  9. Asian American Experience: Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. U of Illinois, 2013. Print.
  10. "Savannah Has Small Chinese Community with Huge Impact." Savannah Has Small Chinese Community with Huge Impact. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.
  11. Botham, Fay. Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  12. Botham, Fay. Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, & American Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  13. Asian American Experience: Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. U of Illinois, 2013. Print.
  14. Teng, Emma. Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943. Print.
  15. Asian American Experience: Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South. U of Illinois, 2013. Print.