A Different Shade of Justice: Asian Americans Civil Rights in the South

A Different Shade of Justice: Asian Americans Civil Rights in the South

A Different Shade of Justice: Asian Americans Civil Rights in the South

A Different Shade of Justice: Asian Americans Civil Rights in the South

Synopsis

In the Jim Crow South, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and, later, Vietnamese and Indian Americans faced obstacles similar to those experienced by African Americans in their fight for civil and human rights. Although they were not black, Asian Americans generally were not considered white and thus were subject to school segregation, antimiscegenation laws, and discriminatory business practices. As Asian Americans attempted to establish themselves in the South, they found that institutionalized racism thwarted their efforts time and again. However, this book tells the story of their resistance and documents how Asian American political actors and civil rights activists challenged existing definitions of rights and justice in the South.

From the formation of Chinese and Japanese communities in the early twentieth century through Indian hotel owners' battles against business discrimination in the 1980s and '90s, Stephanie Hinnershitz shows how Asian Americans organized carefully constructed legal battles that often traveled to the state and federal supreme courts. Drawing from legislative and legal records as well as oral histories, memoirs, and newspapers, Hinnershitz describes a movement that ran alongside and at times intersected with the African American fight for justice, and she restores Asian Americans to the fraught legacy of civil rights in the South.

Excerpt

“I’ve never heard a political opinion from a Chinaman,” African American civil rights activist and Mississippi Delta entrepreneur Amzie Moore recounted in a 1967 interview. Although Congress passed and enacted major pieces of legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Moore understood that there was still a long way to go on the road to equality and was more than a bit flustered over what he identified as Asian Americans’ lack of participation in the civil rights movement. a native of the Mississippi Delta born to sharecropping parents on a plantation near the small town of Grenada and later a store owner in Cleveland, Mississippi, Moore became a leader in the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, an organization that encouraged self-help and entrepreneurship among African Americans in Mississippi. While the 1955 murder of Emmett Till spurred Moore to action in the search for Till’s body (where Moore and others learned that there were hundreds of unknown Emmett Tills whom whites had murdered and dumped in the swamps, bayous, and murky, slow-winding rivers of the Delta for decades and probably centuries), Moore was most comfortable in the economic arena of civil rights. Moore believed deeply in the value of small business and property ownership in uplifting black southerners and placing them on the path to equality. This was often difficult to accomplish in the Delta, the “most southern place on earth,” as journalists described the flat, cotton-bespeckled landscape of the area. Since the immediate post– Civil War years, however, Chinese migrating to the region from the West Coast in search of business opportunities or to join other family members who lingered after brief stints as plantation workers during the early days of Reconstruction had a strong foothold in the small business scene in the Delta.

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