Behind the story | Austin Revealed: Pioneers of the East

austin revealed

Austin Revealed is an oral history project sharing the stories of Austin’s past and present to encourage discussion and thought around the city’s future. In this series of Austin RevealedPioneers From the East, we profile three of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in the Austin area – the Sing family, the Wong family and the Lung family. In addition, Austin Revealed takes you inside Austin’s Asian American Resource Center, a community center focusing on celebrating Austin’s unique Asian community.

We sat down with filmmaker Tim Tsai, who partnered with KLRU on the project, to talk about his passion for Asian American history, why it’s important to Austin and why he got involved with this project.

Watch the four-part series here:
The Wong Family | The Lung Family | The Sing Family Austin’s Asian American Resource Center

What initially attracted you to this project, and what made you decide to get involved?

Tim Tsai

Tim Tsai

As a filmmaker, I’ve always had an interest in exploring Asian American identities as well as an interest in history. When the funding came through for this project, [KLRU] thought of me as a potential partner. I was completely on board. I didn’t know that much about these particular families’ history, but just knowing how long they’ve been here in Austin was already a surprise to me, and I definitely was curious to find out more, to find out what these families’ experiences were like as immigrants. I was very excited to take on this project and to be able to profile these families.

Why do you think it’s important to tell these stories?

I think these stories, particularly minority history, is overlooked. When you look at history textbooks and the curriculum in schools, the non-majority history is often barely mentioned. I bet if you ask Austinites today when the first Asians settled in Austin, they would maybe think since the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s. Not a lot of people know about the earliest Asian immigrants here. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act (a United States federal law signed in1882 which prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers), the Chinese population here, most of whom came to work on the railroads, that population was not allowed to grow. We were a small minority here. But a few of these families did come here, did decide to make Austin their home, and so their stories are very much visible when you talk about Texas history in general. Texans love their history, but certain parts of it are often overlooked.

What did you learn from this project?

I had kind of assumed when there’s such a small number of Chinese Americans here, I would have thought they would band together and be very close. Some of these families did know each other for multiple generations, but really, these three families we profiled, one of them ran a laundry, the other one ran a restaurant, the other one ran a grocery store. They were in different businesses. They lived in different parts of town. They had to integrate. There was no way they could survive if they just kept to their own community, so they all integrated very well into Austin.

What’s also very fascinating is that all these different families have a different connection to their Chinese ancestry. I thought it was fantastic that the Sing family, they identify as Hispanic today, and they’re very proud of their heritage. The Lung family, today, you cannot really identify them just by looking at them that they’re Chinese American. The Wong family, who looks Chinese because subsequent generations did marry Chinese, but what’s interesting is that Dr. Mitchel Wong, he married a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan. There was a cultural difference there. Being first-generation versus third-generation is a big difference.

I came into it expecting some of these episodes to maybe be repetitive, that their stories may be very similar, but I found the opposite, that their stories are actually very different, very unique. They all had different ways of integrating into this community and making their lives here.

What do you think people should take away from this project?

Asian American history and Chinese American history is very diverse. We have very different stories. These communities are not all homogeneous. Each family has their own story to tell. And their story is important. The story of how Chinese Texans came here and how they’ve contributed to our community here is important to document and remember and celebrate.

Austin Revealed: Pioneers From the East – The Wong Family

Austin Revealed is an oral history project sharing the stories of Austin’s past and present to encourage discussion and thought around the city’s future.

In this series of Austin RevealedPioneers From the East, we profile three of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in the Austin area. Learn about their cultures, their histories and how living in Austin has shaped their families in these short documentaries.

The Wong Family
Growing up as part of one of the first families of Chinese descent in Austin, Dr. Mitchel Wong “wasn’t looking for prejudice, wasn’t looking for any animosity, and didn’t see any animosity.” In this documentary, Wong recounts his family’s immigrant history as a member of the “Pershing Chinese” and his personal journey from grocery boy to ophthalmologist.

Check out the stories of two other local families of Chinese origin, the Sing family and the Lung family.

Austin Revealed: Pioneers From the East – The Lung Family

Austin Revealed is an oral history project sharing the stories of Austin’s past and present to encourage discussion and thought around the city’s future.

In this series of Austin RevealedPioneers From the East, we profile three of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in the Austin area. Learn about their cultures, their histories and how living in Austin has shaped their families in these short documentaries.

The Lung Family
As an employee at the Texas Capitol Gift Shop, Joe Michael Lung meets visitors from around the globe. But for him, none of those places compare to Texas. In this documentary, Joe and his sister Meiling Lung tell stories of their grandfather, Joe Lung, and their father, Sam P. Lung—beloved restauranteurs in the community and members of one of the first families of Chinese descent in Austin.

Check out the stories of two other local families of Chinese origin, the Sing family and the Wong family.

Austin Revealed: Pioneers From the East – The Sing Family

Austin Revealed is an oral history project sharing the stories of Austin’s past and present to encourage discussion and thought around the city’s future.

In this series of Austin Revealed, Pioneers From the East, we profile three of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in the Austin area. Learn about their cultures, their histories and how living in Austin has shaped their families in these short documentaries.

The Sing Family
Mary Frances Aguallo and her grandson Raul Aguallo Hernandez always knew they were of Chinese descent, but the fragments of their history finally began to come together with the discovery of a lost box in an attic. In this documentary, the two explore their dual identity as Mexican American and Chinese American as part of the Sing family, one of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in Austin.

Check out the stories of two other local families of Chinese origin, the Wong family and the Lung family.

Austin Revealed: Pioneers From the East – Austin’s Asian American Resource Center

Austin Revealed is an oral history project sharing the stories of Austin’s past and present to encourage discussion and thought around the city’s future.

In this series of Austin RevealedPioneers From the East, we profile three of the first families of Chinese origin to settle in the Austin area – the Sing family, the Wong family and the Lung family.

In addition, Austin Revealed takes you inside Austin’s Asian American Resource Center, a community center focusing on celebrating Austin’s unique Asian community.

The AARC
Austin’s Asian American Resource Center, or AARC, truly embraces Austin’s unique community of Asian people from all over the world. Acting as a bridge between the Asian American community and Austin, the center is one of the most utilized in the city. The AARC provides programs for senior citizens, activities for families, cultural and art exhibits and much more.

Screening Austin Revealed Pioneers from the East 5/27

austin revealed

Join us for a screening of
Austin Revealed: Pioneers from the East

Join KLRU and the Asian American Resource Center as we premiere the latest videos from our ongoing Austin Revealed series. The new videos explore the first Chinese families to settle in Austin. Produced in partnership with the Austin History Center, these videos tell the stories of four generations of prominent Chinese American families still living in Central Texas through first person interviews and archival material.

Wednesday, May 27th
Doors 6:30pm | Screening & discussion 7-8pm

Asian American Resource Center
8401 Cameron Rd, Austin, TX 78754

Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in Texas and nationwide, outpacing Hispanics. While most of this growth is due to recent immigration, the first wave of Asianmigration goes back to the mid 1800’s, when Chinese workers were brought in to work in gold mines and on the railroad. Some of these workers settled in Texas, but in a state that is fanatic about preserving and celebrating its history, very little is known about these pioneering AsianAmericans.

Austin Revealed is an ongoing video project that highlights stories of Austin’s past and present to encourage discussion and thought around the city’s future.

This event is part of our work to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Austin Revealed screening sponsors

Austin Revealed: Civil Right Stories screening 2/8

austin revealed

In commemoration of Black History Month, please join Alpheus Media, KLRU, and Black Googler Network for a special screening and discussion of KLRU’s Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories.

DATE: Sunday, Feb. 8
TIME: 5-7 pm
LOCATION: Google Fiber Space 201 Colorado Street, Austin, TX 78701
COST: Free, RSVP required. RSVP now Drinks and light bites will be provided.

This documentary presents interviews with prominent Austin citizens about their experience during Austin’s civil rights period, the effect of segregation and what gentrification has meant to the city. Panelists will expand on their experiences featured in the film and answer audience questions.

Austin Revealed Screening and Discussion 8/9

austin revealed

Join KLRU and The Austin History Center (AHC) for a special screening and discussion of the documentary Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories. The 30-minute film was made by Alpheus Media for KLRU and explores the issues of racial segregation and the civil rights movement in Austin. The screening will take place at the Austin History Center, 810 Guadalupe St., Saturday, August 9 at 2 PM. The event is free and open to the public. For more information call 512-974-7480 or visit library.austintexas.gov.

Civil Rights on KLRU 6/17, 6/24

In honor of the new show Freedom Summer: American Experience, KLRU is featuring special programs on the Civil Rights Movement. Look forward to two nights in June for these moving stories.

Tuesday, June 17
Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories - 7:30 p.m.
Start local: see interviews with prominent Austin citizens about their experience during Austin’s civil rights period, the effect of segregation and what gentrification has meant to the city.

Freedom Riders: American Experience - 8:00 p.m.
Depriving African-Americans of transportation was a key way of oppression until a group challenged the segregation in 1961. Interviews from the freedom riders themselves are featured in this awe-inspiring documentary.

Independent Lens: The New Black – 10:00 p.m.
Centering on the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland, this film takes viewers into the pews, onto the streets, and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it looks at how the African American community grapples with the divisive gay rights issue.

Tuesday, June 24
March – 7:00 p.m.
The revolutionary March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mind-blowing “I Have a Dream” speech took a lot of work to accomplish, and caused the turning point of the Civil Rights Movement. This documentary excavates the foundation of the monumental protest in honor of its 50th anniversary last year.

Freedom Summer: American Experience – 8:00 p.m.
Over 10 weeks in 1964 known as the Freedom Summer, more than 700 student volunteers in Mississippi joined with organizers and local African Americans in a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in the nation’s most segregated state, with the goal of challenging the Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. The campaign was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches, and the bombing of 70 homes and Freedom Houses.

Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories – 10:00 p.m.

Juneteenth Jamboree: Texas’ African American – 10:30 p.m.
Focusing on the African-American experience in Bell County, Juneteenth Jamboree 2014 features stories about plantation life in mid-1850s Salado, the “Black Panthers” tank battalion in Killeen, important historical figures and much more.

Event explores Past, Present and Future of Jewish Austin

KLRU and the Jewish Federation of Greater Austin in association with the PBS series The Story of the Jews presents The Past, Present and Future of Jewish Austin

DATE: Monday, May 19th
TIME: 7 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm)
LOCATION: Jewish Community Center, 7300 Hart Ln
RSVP: The event is free but an RSVP is required. RSVP now

The PBS series The Story of the Jews explores the Jewish experience from ancient times to the present day. In conjunction with the series, KLRU has created five videos for the Austin Revealed series focusing on the many differing ways of identifying and “being” Jewish in Austin. All five videos will be showcased at this event followed by a community discussion.  KLRU has partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Austin for this event.

Panel discussion moderated by Rabbi David Komerofsky, Associate Vice President for Advancement at Hillel International.

Confirmed panelists include:

  • Randi Shade, entrepreneur, mother and former City Council member
  • Cathy Schechter, co-author of Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews, and wrote the first article about Austin for the Encyclopedia Judaic
  • Jay Rubin, CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Austin

This event was funded in part by a WNET Education grant in conjunction with the PBS series The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama. Watch the complete series plus web-only extras at pbs.org/wnet/story-jews