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Asians in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Michael Hong Wong
Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Michael Hong Wong was born in Austin, Minnesota, in 1948. His grandfather emigrated from Guangdong Province in southern China to Albert Lea, Minnesota, in 1927, by way of Canada and Seattle, Washington. At the time of Michael Wong's birth, his grandfather, father, and uncle were partners in a Chinese restaurant in Austin, but a few years later the family moved to Fargo, North Dakota. Because this city was a crossroad in the movement of military personnel during and after World War II, business opportunities were good, and the elder Wongs worked at the Pheasant Cafe, one of five Chinese restaurants in Fargo during the 1940s and early 1950s. When Wong was about five years old, the family moved back to Minnesota, where they established the Wong Cafe in Rochester. Wong attended public elementary schools in the city and graduated from John Marshall High School in 1966. He entered the University of Minnesota the following fall and graduated in 1970 with a bachelor of fine arts degree, majoring in painting. Later he returned to the university for graduate study and received a master of fine arts degree, with a major in photography, in 1975. During his undergraduate years at the university, Wong was actively involved in the Asian American Alliance, organized on the campus during the 1960s. In 1976 Wong returned to Rochester and worked in the family restaurant, while his wife, Isabel Joe, completed an internship in dietetics at Methodist Hospital. In 1977 they returned to the Twin Cities, and Wong taught for two years at the Minnetonka Art Center (now the Art Center of Minnesota). He also engaged in freelance photography and was one of the early members of the Minnesota Asian American Project, a pan-Asian organization in the Twin Cities area. In 1980 and 1981 Wong was employed by Weigen Graphic Center in Minneapolis and also continued his work as a freelance photographer. He has frequently photographed special events in the Asian community, including those of the most recent arrivals, the Indochinese. He also participated in the collection of photographs for an exhibit entitled "Asians in Minnesota" that opened in the spring of 1982 at the Minnesota Historical Society and was sponsored by the Society, a number of Asian community organizations, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota China Council. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: The Wong family's background; childhood experiences as a Chinese American in Rochester; family structure in the immigrant community; discrimination in housing; development of Asian American consciousness among students in the Asian Alliance at the University of Minnesota; traditional Chinese views toward marriage and death; Chinese immigrants' occupational goals for their children; political views in the Chinese community; the role of Senator Hubert Humphrey in helping Chinese immigrants bring their relatives to Minnesota; and the election of Mayor Hazana, the first Asian American in elective office in Rochester or Minnesota. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Michael Wong represents the second and third generations of the Chinese business community in Minnesota. The Wong Cafe in Rochester, operated by his family for more than 25 years, is a landmark in the town and was visited by Senator Humphrey on numerous occasions. Wong is particularly perceptive about the experience of Asian Americans who grew up in small towns in outstate areas.
Quantity 4.5 hours sound cassette
141 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 03:34:36 running time
Creation Narrator: Wong, Michael Hong
Interviewer: Mason, Sarah R.
Made in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Asians
Chinese
Made in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 06/07/1979 - 07/03/1979
Narrator was interviewed on 6/7/1979 and 7/3/1979.
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
ID Number OH 51
Accession Number AV1981.361.13
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Asians in Minnesota Oral History Project'