East Meets South (1995)

Excerpt from Feature Story:

In 1984, Southern Exposure published a special issue on the history of the Chinese in the South. Focusing on Chinese-American communities in Louisiana and Mississippi, articles in the issue chronicled the post-Civil War migration of so-called "coolie" laborers to the Deep South—brought there initially as replacement for newly emancipated African Americans—and explored the complex three-part racial system that developed in places where these migrants settled. The editor's introduction to the issue explained why it's important to remember this history: "While it is clear that the racist practices spawned during the plantation era are still active in the continued political and economic subordination of African Americans, their impact on other people of color in the South is less visible. Yet a true picture of race relations, and more importantly, a blueprint for progressive change cannot be developed without expanding our understanding of the roots of racial oppression and the impact of racism on all people." Twenty-one years later, these words still ring true—all the more so because the racial landscape of the South has been reshaped so dramatically in the last two decades. The increase in Latino immigration has received a good deal of attention, both here in the pages of SE and in the media at large. In this special issue, then, we turn to a less talked-about aspect of the "New New South": the growth of Asian American communities and its implications for Southern culture and politics.

150 Years of Asian/Southern Intersections

Vol. 33, Nos. 1-2 Summer 2005

The issue investigates an important but frequently-ignored subject: the close ties between Asia and the U.S. South. Among the in-depth features:

  • They Were Fighters: The story of Southern Baptists, China and the Opium War
  • Looking Like the Enemy: Internment brought Japanese-Americans to Arkansas - and Jim Crow
  • Troubled Waters: Vietnamese shrimpers stood up to the Klan, now they face globalization
  • Beyond the Model Minority: Talking with North Carolina activist Milan Pham and much more!

As guest editors Christina Chia and Hong-An Truong note in their opening essay:

    "The articles in this issue give us insight into a wide range of Asian-American communities in the South. One theme that emerges is that many Asians are in America today because of the long-standing and ongoing military, economic, and cultural presence of Americans in Asia. To understand how East has met South, we have to look not only at demographic shifts within the American South, but also at Southern "footprints" in Asia. We have to confront both the new realities and forgotten histories of the South."


  • Investigations
    • 5 Waste and Means
      • by Sean Reilly Republicans promised their reign would bring an era of "fiscal responsibility." Then why is the federal budget still loaded with dubious pork spending?
  • Features
    • 10 Tuscarora Blues
      • by Jacob Dagger Pura Fe Crescioni wants to change the way we think about the blues.
  • East Meets South
    • 16 Guest Editors' Introduction
      • by Christina Chia and Hong-An Truong The history of Asians in the American South reveals unexpected twists in many familiar themes of Southern history: race, labor, religion, and war
    • 20 They Were Fighters
      • by Samuel Chi-Yuen Lowe After the notorious Opium War "opened" China to European and American commerce, Southern Baptists sent missionaries to accompany the merchants. They couldn't have predicted that the gospel they brought would be radically transformed by some of their new converts. Nor could they have known that reverberations would be felt all the way back home in the South.
    • 29 Scenes from a Forgotten War
      • by Christina Chia From the island of Mindanao to Jamestown, Virginia, white Southerners of the early twentieth century had their cameras—and rifles—trained squarely on Filipinos.
    • 40 Looking Like the Enemy
      • by Johanna Miller Lewis When Japanese Americans were interned during World War II, the government brought some of them from the West Coast to distant Arkansas. They found themselves surrounded by barbed wire—and the Jim Crow South.
    • 48 Mixing Blood
      • by Dwayne Dixon For these Japanese women, marrying American soldiers meant leaving everything they knew. So they created their own, unique community in the shadow of Fort Bragg.
    • 51 Troubled Waters
      • by Thao Ha A quarter century ago, Vietnamese-American shrimpers faced down the Klan. Now they have to contend with an even more powerful enemy—globalization.
    • 58 Beyond the Model Minority
      • interview with Milan Pham by Hong-An Truong and Christina Chia Our guest editors talk with North Carolina activist Milan Pham about Ward Connerly, spy planes, Real ID, organizing Asians in the South, and figuring out you're not white.
    • 65 South Asian Americans in the American South
      • by Shivali Shah Some immigrant women face difficult times when relationships turn abusive. Do social services in the South have what it takes to help them?
    • 69 From Viet Nam to the Carolinas
      • images and text by Hong-An Truong One Montagnard family makes a life in the South.
    • 76 This is How I Got Here
      • interview with Ran Kong by Barbara Lau A Cambodian in the South talks about explaining where Cambodia is, eating her home country's food with American spices, and why she doesn't call herself American.
Volume and Number: 
Vol. 33, Nos. 1-2

Since 1973 Southern Exposure has gained critical praise for its thorough investigations, unsentimental portraits of Southern life, and public interest reporting.