Wilmington Chinese Deportation Case, 1914
This curious deportation case arose in Wilmington, N. C. in which 3 adolescent Chinese boys won their right to remain in the U. S. Even though they had apparently entered the country legally as sons of merchants, each of them were found working in a Chinese laundry.
An attempt was made to deport them on the grounds that the boys should be reclassified as laborers due to their laundry work so that under the provisions of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, they were ineligible for admission to the country.
Fortunately, for them, the judge ruled in their favor.
Jung Wing, a Chinese who died at age 90 in 1944 in Atlanta, may well have been one of the first laundrymen not only in the South but anywhere in the U. S. According to his obituary, he was washing clothes near Atlanta when it was still named Marthasville prior to the “War Between the States,” as Southerners referred to what today is commonly called the “Civil War.”
Interestingly, Jung Wing had another claim to fame as he was sent as a delegate to Washington, D. C. for the first inauguration of President Grover Cleveland.
Journalistic articles of a century ago typically loved to describe Chinese in unflattering terms such as “slant-eyed, pig-tailed celestials” so it was a surprise to find a 1901 article in the New York Times that actually complimented Chinese laundrymen as shown in the headline below .
The article describes how Chinese laundrymen in New York’s Bowery often extended credit to customers short on cash and unable to pay for their laundry as illustrated in the following scenario.
Despite such generosity that the Chinese “uncles” provided to some customers, Chinese laundrymen were more often ridiculed and demeaned, and sometimes robbed, attacked, and even killed in their laundries.