Chinese-American family donating $5M to Black community to thank Black couple who rented to them in 1939

Gus and Emma Thompson, a black couple, are being recognized for their courageous decision to rent their Coronado, California, property to Lloyd Dong Sr. and his wife in 1939, despite widespread racial restrictions on home ownership and rental at the time.

Today, the Dongs possess the Thompsons’ original home at 832 C Ave. as well as an eight-unit apartment building next door, with a combined value of $8 million, according to family members.

In appreciation, Lloyd Dong Jr. and his elder brother, Ron Dong, the sons of Lloyd Dong Sr., are giving $5 million of their share of the property’s sale earnings to Black college students around the U.S. 

The family is also attempting to rename the Black Resource Center at San Diego State University in honor of Emma and Gus, who were born into slavery in Kentucky.

Lloyd Dong Jr., now 81 years old, told NBC News that the Thompsons gave their family a start with the land, and now it’s their turn to give others the same opportunity. He said, “Without them, we would not have the education and everything else.”

His 86-year-old brother Ron Dong and his wife Janice Dong, retired educators, are happy that the funds will support education because they believe it has the power to transform lives. “It’s just exactly what’s appropriate,” Ron went on to say.

According to the publication, the Dong family has been in California since the late nineteenth century. Formerly a farmer in the Central Valley, Lloyd Dong Sr. went to Coronado to work as a gardener. His son Ron recounted that his father put in extra effort even on the seventh day of the week to support his American-born children’s education, professional development, and real estate investing.

Then, in 1939, Gus and Emma Thompson provided the Dong family with a place to live, a commitment to sell them the land, and the opportunity to build a better life.

Not by accident, though, as Gus Thompson’s boarding house on the upper floor of his barn was the only place in Coronado at the time where immigrants and members of minority groups could stay.

Gus Thompson had come from Kentucky to California to work at the Hotel Del Coronado. He was not restricted from constructing the house and barn on C Avenue in 1895 because the city’s racial housing covenants had not taken effect at the time. Thompson turned his barn into a boarding home for the vulnerable.

According to Kevin Ashley, a Coronado historian, Emma Thompson sold the Coronado home and adjacent barn to the Dongs in 1955, making them the first Chinese-American family to acquire real estate in Coronado.

The Dong family stayed at the house at 832 C Ave. until 1957, when they replaced the barn with an apartment complex. Ron Dong went on to become a high school teacher, while Lloyd Dong Jr. worked in a variety of fields, including tax preparation. The brothers relocated from Coronado to various parts of California, managing the houses on C Avenue from afar.

Dollita Okine

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