Against the backdrop of a rapidly disappearing society and culture, this project will promote local heritage preservation by actively collecting oral histories, memorabilia, photographs and textile materials related to the history and story of the Mississippi Delta Chinese immigration and settlement.The resources developed from this preservation project will promote an environment of understanding and appreciation of our ethnic and cultural diversity.
Our primary goal is to collect objects, photographs and any other memorabilia which would help tell the story of Chinese legacy in the Mississippi Delta.Here are some examples of items that would be helpful in telling this story:
The story of immigration and assimilation of Chinese families into the rural, agrarian Mississippi Delta is an important one to preserve, respect and share with this and future generations. The history of Chinese people and culture in this area is intricately and inextricably intertwined in the fabric of the Delta’s heritage. To tell one part of the story, one must tell all of the story. To date, there have been only a handful of scholarly works presented to tell this vibrant and essential history. Some works have been well received by the MS Delta Chinese communities, while others have fallen short of depicting an equal and balanced story, leaving many in the community uncertain and cautious to share any more of their history with the public.
The MS Delta Chinese Heritage Museum, Inc. (MDCHM) formed from the interests and enthusiasm of four individuals who recognized that a culture and significant history was slipping away. Raymond Wong, Frieda Quon (and her husband who passed away before we were able to finalize plans for official incorporation), Emily Jones (Delta State University Archivist) and Lisa Miller (Director of the Martin & Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum for the City of Cleveland) began with this statement in 2009 as our call to action:
The Mississippi Delta, a complex culture and history with an economic heritage born out of an agrarian society. Unwritten rules dictate the culture, establishing boundaries between black and white, where to be ‘in between’ was to be invisible. The history of Chinese in the Mississippi Delta is intricately and inextricably intertwined in the fabric of the history of this region. To tell one part of the story, one must tell all of the story.
Diversity is keystone word in the Delta as our region has seen numerous cultures delivered to this area and forced or allowed to assimilate. From the French and Spanish who first explored this region in the midst of the Native Americans to the aggressive and thrill-seeking loggers and planters who demanded a thriving life from the ground, cultures have been crossing the alluvial plane for centuries, leaving their marks and influences. Today, we see those influences in our food, our celebrations and our heritage. It is not an easy history to remember or share but one we have and a responsibility we will see through.
The rich and fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta, like a magnet, have attracted a potpourri of ethnic cultures to thrive and seek their fortunes in the post Civil War era. Families of Italian, Lebanese and Jewish ancestry have populated the flat and rich Delta region along with another culture, the Cantonese families of China, to seek their prosperity in the Southern climate of the new world.
The first immigrants of Chinese ancestry in this region were brought in to work the vast agricultural fields after the Emancipation Proclamation. Generations had rooted, and wives and relatives were procured to establish a broad and diverse culture in this new land. The stories of this unique heritage are exhibited here among the visuals, artifacts and antiquities of this prominent society.