The history of Chinese Memphians goes back 150 years in Memphis. Our first Chinese families were subject to tough times in the United States. The government and the general population severely persecuted them.
At the end of April, Mark and I plan to sit with members of the Chinese Historical Community and the Greater Memphis Chinese Association about the history, lifestyle, business, home life, and cultural contributions of the Chinese in Memphis.
We hope to chat about the Chinese Exclusion Act of May 6, 1882, enacted by then President Chester A. Arthur, and how it applied to Chinese Memphians.
We will also ask about the Memphis Chinese Labor Convention, which happened in July 1889. The Convention was the Nation’s first Chinese Labor Convention.
I want to introduce our fellow member of the Shelby Historical Commission, Emmi Dunn Bahurlet, who has written an account of her heritage.
Star Speller to First Chinese Postmistress
Thirteen-year-old Emma Quong, a Chinese girl of Havana, Ill., proved she is a real American by winning second place in a state-wide spelling contest at Springfield.
Emma was born in Traverse City, Michigan on December 25, 1916. One of six children born to Gum Quong and Seit Shee Chu, the family lived in Michigan and Illinois, where the father operated a laundry. In 1933 Emma married C. Y. Fong in Marianna, Arkansas. The couple settled first in Round Pond, AR, where three children born, then in Hughes, AR. Their business included both grocery and a dry good store.
Below is the register for appointments of U.S. Postmasters for Arkansas. Emma was appointed first as acting postmistress in 1956, then confirmed with a term to expired August 18, 1961. Not only was she the first Chinese postmistress, but also, her brother, Ching Quong Chu, was appointed in 1959 Postmaster in Round Pond, Arkansas (first Chinese man). He served in this Post until 1983, a period of 24 years. With his wife of 70 years, Nellie, they raised six children. Mr. Chu, known for his wit, was also known for his brilliance, honesty, and a loving man. Ching Quong was born in 1920 and passed away in 2012. He is buried in Forrest Lawn Memorial Park located in Los Angeles, California. In 2009 Emma Fong passed away and is buried in Crittenden Memorial Park, Marion, Arkansas.
Below images courtesy of Linda Hoh