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ColorQ's AfroAsian Gallery

Notable black-Asian couples in modern times

Eugene Chen and Agatha Ganteaume

Eugene Chen, the lawyer who was at one time China's Foreign Minister, married Agatha Ganteaume, who was of black French descent. They had four children. Born in Trinidad in 1878, Chen later went to China to join the Chinese nationalist movement as a protege of Sun Yat-sen. He died while under house arrest during WWII. (Agatha had passed away years before and Chen had since remarried) The Chinese Communists who came to power in 1949 transferred his ashes to Beijing's Cemetary of the Heroes of the Revolution and built a memorial in his memory.1

Rare photographs and biographical information of Eugene Chen, Agatha Ganteaume and their four children can be found at YuanTsung Chen's site for her book "RETURN TO THE MIDDLE KINGDOM: ONE FAMILY, THREE REVOLUTIONARIES, AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN CHINA". (Chen is the widow of Eugene and Agatha's youngest son, Jack Chen.)

Justice Thurgood Marshall and Cecile Suyat

Thurgood Marshall, the first African American supreme court justice, married "Cissy" Suyat, a Filipina, after his first wife's death. Southern whites criticized Marshall's marriage to a "white" woman, to which he responded, "I just think you ought to be accurate...I've had two wives and both of 'em are colored".2 One of their children, John Marshall, became the head of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Judge Belton Hamilton and Midori Minamoto

Civil rights pioneer Belton Hamilton graduated from Stanford, where he was one of two black students in the 1940s. He then attended law school at the University of Oregon, where he met his future wife, a Japanese American whose family was interned in Idaho during WWII. Hamilton went on to become the first black assistant state attorney general, the first black federal administrative law judge in Oregon. According to a Washington Post article, he had to draft legislation in order to legally marry Midori Minamoto and to buy their house in a white suburb, where the couple raised two children. Hamilton's house was subjected to racist vandalism up into the 2000s.

Ron Sims and Cayan Topacio

Ron Sims is the Executive of King County, Washington, one of the few people of color to reach such a high position in a predominantly white state. His career has been featured in a New York Times article: When to Campaign With Color; An Asian-American Told His Story to Whites and Won. For Black Politicians, It's a Riskier Strategy. In this June 2000 article, Sims said, "When I told my friends I was in love, they said, 'You know those Filipino women carry knives in their purses.' And when we married, boy, did we get it from all sides -- her family and my family. We were outcasts." The article also quotes Topacio's thoughts from watching people react to her son, who looks more black than Asian: "Blacks are treated different from Asians", she says, "in little everyday ways."

Arthel Neville and Taku Hirano

Well-known talk show host Arthel Neville is wed to percussionist Taku Hirano. Arthel's achievements include launching the news magazine program Extra! and hosting her own talk shows. She has been working for CNN as an anchor since 2002. Taku has worked with Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, Dr Dre, Stevie Wonder and Isaac Hayes, amongst others. The story of their courtship and marriage is featured in the July 2003 issue of Essence Magazine.

Earl Woods and Kultida Punsawad

Earl and Kultida are better known as the parents of Tiger Woods. Earl Woods, a retired Green Beret lieutenant colonel, is of Native American, Chinese, African and European descent. Kultida Punsawad is of Chinese and Thai descent.3

Grace Lee and James Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American, has been a union organizer in Detroit since the 1960s. The FBI identified her as an "Afro-Chinese Marxist". Grace Lee received a marriage proposal from the first President of Ghana, but chose instead to marry James Boggs, an African American automobile assembly line worker and labor activist. The couple wrote revolutionary tracts arguing that urban centers could be the base for black revolution.4

Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

The husband-and-wife team of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu has illustrated many award-winning children's books, including "Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree" and "Sam and the Lucky Money".5 Van Wright is African American and a native New Yorker. Hu is originally from Taiwan.5

Dr Tyrone Hayes and Kathy Kim

Dr Tyrone Hayes, a renowned biologist and herpetologist at UC Berkeley, is known for his scientific breakthrough linking reed frog gender changes to chemical contamination in water.6 Hayes credits his wife Kathy Kim with inspiring him on the path to success. When Tyrone was an undergraduate at Harvard, the South Carolina native had trouble adjusting and nearly dropped out, but two people, biologist Bruce Waldman and Tyrone's then-girlfriend Kathy Kim encouraged him to stay on.7 "Kathy had confidence in me," Tyrone recalled.8 The couple was married two days after Tyrone graduated with honors, and Tyrone went on to complete his doctorate at UC Berkeley in three and a half years.9 Hayes then went to Africa, where he discovered a quick way of testing endocrine disruption using the reed frog. Kim advised him to patent this key discovery, which came to be known as the HAES test.9 Dr Hayes, Kathy Kim and their children appear in the book "The Frog Scientist".

  1. Lynn Pan ed., The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas, p253
  2. Juan Williams, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, p244
  3. Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, p293
  4. Wu, 331
  5. The Legend of Freedom Hill
  6. National Geographic Emerging Explorers - Tyrone Hayes
  7. Discover - Transsexual Frogs
  8. Pamela S. Turner, The Frog Scientist, p11
  9. Sierra Club Profile - Hopping Mad