YellowBridge Chinese Language & Culture
Chinese Language Center

Famous Chinese Americans Politics, Law and Civil Rights

  Who What
Elaine Chao photo fropm DOL  趙小蘭
Elaine L. Chao

b. 1953, Taiwan
Public servant. Her long career includes stints as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, director of the Peace Corps, and President of the United Way. She was a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation before being appointed Secretary of Labor by President George W. Bush in 2001, becoming the first Asian-American woman to join the US cabinet. She served in that position until 2009.
Anna Chan Chennault

b. 1925, Beijing
Public servant and writer. She initially worked as a reporter for a Chinese news agency before marrying Claire Lee Chennault, the commander of the famed Flying Tigers squadron during World War II. After moving to the US in 1960, she became active in the Republican Party, subsequently founding the National Republican Asian Assembly.
Ming W. Chin

b. 1942, Klamath Falls, OR
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. After obtaining his law degree from the University of San Francisco, he served as an army captain, deputy D.A., lawyer, and judge. In 1996 he was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the California Supreme Court, becoming the first Chinese American to join that body. As an associate justice, he has authored many landmark decisions on DNA, surrogate parenthood, and hate crimes.
Vincent Chin

b. 1955
d. 1982

Victim of hate crime. Chin was visiting a Detroit strip club with a few friends to celebrate his upcoming wedding. Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, two Caucasian auto workers, mistaking him for a Japanese, taunt him, and blame him for the problems in the US auto industry. Outside the bar, the auto workers retrieve a baseball bat and use it to beat him over the head. Chin goes into a coma and dies a few days later. The attackers are sentenced to just three years of probation and a $3,000 fine. Outraged by the lightness of the sentence, the Asian-American community of Detroit form the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), which would continue the fight at the federal level. Initially, the ACJ was partly successful. Ebens is found guilty of violating Chin's civil rights while Nitz is found not guilty. Unfortunately, the conviction is overturned on a technicality and both men are found not guilty on a retrial. Although justice was not served in the case, the Chin murder was instrumental in mobilizing the Asian American community against hate crimes.

  Steven Chu See Famous Chinese Americans in Science and Technology