Black Couple Helped Chinese-American Family When No One Else Would — Now, They Are Paying It Back in a Big Way

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Eighty-five years ago, Gus and Emma Thompson didn’t just open the door of their home to the Dongs, they opened the door for the Chinese-American family to achieve the American Dream.

The Dongs never forgot it.

And now, the last two remaining Dong children are paying it forward. They’re donating $5 MILLION to the Black Resource Center of San Diego State University and petitioning to have the Center renamed the Gus and Emma Thompson Black Resource Center.

A Black Couple Rents Their Home to a Chinese-American Family

It was 1939 in Coronado, California. A ritzy resort town known for its white sandy beaches, that’s not all that was white. So were nearly all of its residents.

With racially restrictive housing laws prohibiting immigrants and people of color from renting and buying in town, Coronado didn’t exactly welcome Chinese-American Lloyd Dong and his wife, Margaret with open arms.

In fact, finding a place to live was almost impossible. That is, until a Black couple, Gus and Emma Thompson, saved the day.

Gus, a former slave from Kentucky, built his house and barn in 1895 before the housing restrictions were implemented. This meant that they were exempt. He used the loophole to his full advantage.

Knowing all too well the struggle of racial discrimination, Gus and his wife Emma, successful Black entrepreneurs, made it their mission to defy the law and help the marginalized.

They turned the top floor of the barn into a boarding house for seasonal black workers and rented the house to the Dongs. It was the start they needed. And, ultimately, it changed their lives.

“At that time, this was the only place my Chinese parents could rent in Coronado,” Lloyd and Margaret’s son, Ron, told The Coronado Times.

“If it wasn’t for the Thompsons, my family would not have been able to live in Coronado where my father worked as a gardener.”

The First Chinese-American Family to Purchase Real Estate in Coronado

The couple rented the house at 832 C Ave. for 17 years. It’s where they raised four children. And eventually, in 1955, it’s where they became the first Chinese American family to own real estate in Coronado (after buying the house and barn from Emma).

In 1957, Lloyd and Margaret Dong replaced the barn with an eight-unit apartment complex.

Years passed and life, as it does, changed. Their children went on to university and built their careers and fortunes. Their sons, Ron and Lloyd Jr. moved away. But they continued to manage the properties from afar.

Today, Ron Dong (87), his wife Janice, and Lloyd Dong Jr. (82) are the last surviving family members. And after 85 years, they’re finally saying goodbye to the home they credit with changing their lives.

Paying It Back by Paying It Forward

In an incredible full-circle moment, Ron and Lloyd Jr. are selling the Coronado property and donating their $5 million proceeds back to the Black community. They hope it helps kids who otherwise might not be able to, go to college.

The brothers say they owe their success in life to the opportunity the Thompsons gave them.

“Because we grew up in Coronado, and got our education here, we have become financially able to donate this money to the center, and we are happy to do that,” said Lloyd Dong, Jr.

“What’s important here is what was given to us, to our family, and the education that came from it, and now is the time to give it back,” said Ron Dong.

The Thompsons didn’t have to open their home to the Dongs. At a time when they were at risk of being persecuted for helping them, they could have easily turned a blind eye. But they did it anyway.

Gus and Emma Thompson weren’t afraid to stand up for what was right. And in doing so, not only did they change one family’s life for the better, but now they are changing the lives of many more to come.

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