The Chinese of the Mississippi Delta had their own schools. Why, you ask? This is the US of A, we have public schools. Ah, but this is Mississippi — a phrase Lydia Chin learns well in PAPER SON. In Mississippi, right up until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 — and, in a complicated way, beyond it — schools were tightly segregated.
In 1927, long before Brown, the Supreme Court heard and decided the case of Lum v. Rice. Lum argued that a young Chinese girl should be allowed in the white schools, having been “incorrectly classified” as “colored” under Mississippi’s Jim Crow laws. A generation later, Brown argued that separate was intrinsically unequal; but Lum didn’t, only that, essentially, Chinese weren’t “colored.” The Supreme Court said Mississippi was entitled to define “colored” any way it saw fit.
So the Chinese of the Delta, seeing the kind of education to which black children were condemned, founded, opened, and ran their own schools.
And the Lums moved to Arkansas, just across the river, where Chinese kids were allowed in white schools.
Chinese school, 1938
photo link: https://bit.ly/2ZVfc4H
I’m having fun reading your blogposts about Mississippi! I’m a native Cleveland-er who writes books for kids. I set my middle-grade novel MAKING FRIENDS WITH BILLY WONG in Arkansas because I learned they were a little more accepting of differences than some of the towns across the river. I look forward to reading PAPER SON. Enjoy the wonderful Book Festival!