The Mississippi Delta Chinese
Since the 1900s, the Mississippi Delta has been home to a large number of Chinese Americans. Many Chinese immigrants moved to the Delta in search of better economic opportunities and opened up family-run grocery stores that mainly served black communities in these regions. At its peak, there were hundreds of grocery stores and an estimated 2,500 Chinese people living in the Delta.
As the community grew, they inherited a unique socio-economic position in a predominantly biracial society. The Chinese served as middlemen in a segregated society and developed unique characteristics that reflect Southern regional influences such speaking with a deep drawl, adapting typically Southern ingredients into Chinese cooking and developing football rivalries within families and friends. These characteristics present a wholly unique Chinese-American experience that differs from the common narratives found in urban and coastal cities.
The Mississippi Delta Chinese assimilated and thrived in the rural South, contributing immensely to the region in all areas of society. Despite this, Chinese people are still often viewed as outsiders and foreigners, constantly being questioned on where they came from. The Chinese population in the Delta is dwindling as the older generation pass on and as younger Chinese seek better opportunities elsewhere.
In this photojournalism project, we interviewed and photographed 16 members of the Chinese American community who grew up in the Mississippi Delta. We interviewed both the young/old and covered topics like cultural identity, racial equality, regional identity, outlook on life, and perspectives on citizenship. All photos were taken on 35mm and medium-format film.
Andrew Kung is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn. He grew up in San Francisco, went to business school at UC Berkeley, and worked at LinkedIn for 3.5 years as a strategy/operations analyst before leaving Silicon Valley. He now mainly shoots commercial and editorial work in NYC and LA with a recent affinity for photojournalism and documentary work. You can see his work on his website and Instagram.
Apkung.com // Instagram.com/andrew_kung
Emanuel Hahn is a commercial photographer specializing in portraiture based in Brooklyn, New York. Having grown up in South Korea, Singapore and Cambodia, Emanuel is curious about different cultures, especially the diaspora community. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website and Instagram.
Emanuelhahn.com // Instagram.com/hahnbo
More information: www.thedeltachinese.com