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Chinese American Family Donates $5 Million to Black Community in Honor of Couple That Allowed Them to Rent First Home

“Without them, we would not have the education and everything else,” Lloyd Dong Jr. said

<p>Courtesy of San Diego State University</p> Lloyd Dong Jr. (left) and his brother Ron stand outside of their childhood home on C Street in Coronado

Courtesy of San Diego State University

Lloyd Dong Jr. (left) and his brother Ron stand outside of their childhood home on C Street in Coronado

A Chinese American family is paying forward the kindness they received decades ago.

The Dong family shared with NBC News that they will be donating $5 million to Black college students around the U.S. — a donation that will be funded by the sale of their home in Coronado, California, which they say they obtained in 1939 thanks to a Black entrepreneurial couple in the city.

The family told the outlet that when they first moved to Coronado, they found themselves unable to rent any properties due to racially restrictive housing laws at the time. However, Emma and Gus Thompson took a chance on the family and allowed them to rent out a property, which they eventually purchased.

“Without them, we would not have the education and everything else,” Lloyd Dong Jr. told NBC News.

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The Dong family was able to flourish in the U.S. over the next few decades, and now they want to give some money back to the Black community. “It may enable some kids to go and flourish in college that might not have been able to otherwise,” Janice Dong, 86, said of the donation.

Her husband Ron Dong, 86, added, “It’s just exactly what’s appropriate.”

They are also planning to go one step further in honoring the Thompsons by working to get San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center named after the couple that gave them their opportunity in California.

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Gus Thompson had traveled from Kentucky to California to work at the Hotel Del Coronado in the 1800s. In 1895, he built a house and barn along C Avenue before the city’s racial housing covenants were set in place, Coronado historian Kevin Ashley told NBC. After the laws changed, he eventually allowed minorities and immigrants to stay at a boarding house on the upper level of the barn.

Brothers Lloyd Jr. and Ron Dong shared with NBC News that their father, Lloyd Dong Sr., had moved to Coronado to become a gardener after having worked as a farmer in the Central Valley. However, their choices for places to stay were limited, and they found themselves at Gus Thompson’s boarding house.

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In 1955, Emma Thompson sold the Coronado home and the barn to the Dong family, which made them the first Chinese Americans to purchase real estate in the city,  Ashley told NBC.

The family eventually turned the barn into an apartment complex and moved out of the city to different parts of California. They managed the properties from afar for decades before deciding that it was time to sell as they became increasingly harder to maintain.

“It’s time,” Janice said of the decision to sell. “We want to give back.” 

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