Hollywood Actress Becomes First Asian American on US Currency

The late movie star Anna May Wong became the first Asian American to be portrayed on US money. Ung worked in Hollywood during a time of overt racism and stereotyping of actors. During her career, Wong also became the first Asian American woman to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California.

Wang’s face and hands are featured on a new version of the American quarter, a 25-cent coin. The United States Mint recently announced that Wang is part of a five-part series of quarters released as part of its American Women’s Quarter program. Wong was born Wong Liu Tsang in 1905 in Los Angeles. In 1919 he had his first part or role in the film The Red Lantern. He was only 14 years old then. He got his first major role in the 1922 film The Toll of the Sea.

He appeared in more than 60 films, including one of the first Hollywood color films. In 1951, Wang became the first Asian American lead actor in an American television show for his role in The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsang. Even with her success, Wong faced anti-Asian discrimination and racism in Hollywood where she was typecast and underpaid. He was repeatedly passed over for lead roles, forcing him to travel to Europe to act in films. Wong also moved to London and New York to act in theatre. He died in 1961.

Ventris Gibson is the director of the US Mint. He called Wang a “courageous” supporter of “increased representation and more multidimensional roles for Asian American actors.” Others selected for the American Women’s Quarter program include author and civil rights champion Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride. The ride became the first American woman to fly in space.

Anna May Wang’s niece, who shares the name Anna Wang, told The Associated Press that she was surprised, but happy when she learned how her aunt was being honored.

Wong’s choice has excited many Asian Americans inside and outside of Hollywood.

Arthur Dong wrote the book Hollywood Chinese. He said the quarter felt like an affirmation of the contributions not only to Wang but also to other Asian Americans in America.

“It means people all over the country — and I guess the world — will see his face and see his name,” Dong said. “If they don’t know anything about him, they will … be curious and want to learn something about him.”

Wong’s niece and others will attend an event with the US Mint on Nov. 4 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. One of Wong’s movies, Shanghai Express, will be shown.

I’m Brian Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported this story. Brian Lynn adapted the reports for VOA English Learning.

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