Chinese in the Delta


Joe Gow Nue Grocery Store in Greenville, Mississippi, 1930s

   What if Chinese men and women never migrated south? Why did they choose the Delta? What would have happened if life would have been easier wherever the Chinese originally lived? All one can say is thank God for the arrivals of the Chinese. While migrating to the Delta, the Chinese were able to contribute much to the region by starting businesses, providing economic growth, and benefiting black communities (Wilson 1). While many people may not think that what the Chinese did to contribute made a huge impact, they were able to amount to great success and help build the Delta.

   One of the first differences the Chinese made to help contribute to the region was starting businesses. The Chinese migrated to the Delta from many different areas of the country to break away from the terrible and violent lives they lived (Jung NA). Many Chinese felt that they would be able to find better success in less populated and rural areas like the Delta (Jung NA). At first, some Chinese workers came to the south to find more jobs like working on the railroad; however, they began to open little grocery stores (Wilson 1). The opening of these little stores helped tremendously throughout the region; however, no one would have seen it coming.

   Business wasn’t hard to start, but it was difficult to manage. One of the main problems for helping their businesses was English. Almost every Chinese immigrant could not speak English, and they had to point and use signaled motions to help sell items (Wilson 1). Eventually, business would prosper. “The success that Chinese had with small grocery stores led to a chain of migration with the earlier arrivals recruiting their relatives to come from other parts of the country as well as from their native Guangdong, China villages” (Jung NA). Also, these stores would be given to the son by the father for many generations which helped these families stay in the Delta region and increase the population (Wilson 1).

   Not only did these stores provide the contributions listed earlier, it also provided economic growth. Many Chinese business owners had a unique plan. They opened many businesses in black communities (Jung NA). The reason behind opening the stores in black communities was “to serve cotton pickers who previously acquired their food and household items from plantation-owned commissaries” (Jung NA). This not only benefited the small businesses that the Chinese have started, but it also benefited the black community. The reason black communities began buying from the Chinese grocery stores was because “commissaries closed when the market for cotton declined in the 1920s and afterward in the Great Depression, opening the door for Chinese to dominate in this business” (Jung NA).

   While the Chinese did provide service and did not discriminate black people, the Chinese and blacks were not sociable together. In fact, white and black people thought that the Chinese were not equal to blacks (Wilson 1). The Chinese were thought of as less than everyone else; however, they still provided a welcoming and safe place for the black community to “sit and talk, pass the time, and even find work from landowners who would check there for available day laborers” (Wilson 1). As this may be not something people view as contributable, the Chinese did so much for the black community.

   While many people may not see the migration of the Chinese to the south as an impactful event, what they did has forever change the Delta. When the Chinese migrated to the Delta, they made many contributions to the region which was not only good for their society, but it helped in many other ways. They were able to start business which created jobs, provide economic growth by causing more money to be spent within the area, and gave a place for black people to feel sale and hang out to find jobs (Wilson 1). They provided a good bit of success to the south during the migration to the Delta. Without the Chinese, who knows how different the Delta would be today.


Works Cited
Jung, John. “Origins of Chinese in the Delta.” Mississippi Delta Chinese, Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.
Wilson, Charles. “Chinese in Mississippi: An Ethnic People in a Biracial Society.” Mississippi History Now, Nov. 2002, Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.