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The Library of Virginia has an extensive collection of historical and current newspapers, with more than one million pages digitized. Newspapers can be a direct window into the past and are an important research tool when searching for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) history in Virginia. Snippets and mentions of APIDAs in newspapers can be an integral start to uncovering fruitful and rich histories, often featuring people who had to live in and navigate a legal and cultural system of segregation in Virginia. Perhaps most valuable are the occasional photographs of APIDAs featured within the newspaper. Newspapers do not always give the full story, but a larger picture can often be formed by finding names which can be further researched using the census and other historical records.

Virginia Newspaper Project

The Virginia Newspaper Project, established in 1993, has worked to locate, describe, inventory, preserve, and provide public access to United States imprint newspapers housed not only at the Library of Virginia but throughout the commonwealth–a bibliography of American newspapers cataloged and inventoried by the Virginia Newspaper Project can be found here. From the Abingdon Virginian to the Wytheville Dispatch, the Library’s Virginia Chronicle provides free access to newspaper pages from the commonwealth and beyond. These full-text searchable and digitized images (downloadable as pdfs) give glimpses into the lives of Virginians, outlining everything from community happenings to notable moments in American history. By using Virginia Chronicle, researchers can search for and find traces of APIDAs early in the history of the commonwealth and up to the current day. Below are just a few snapshots of APIDAs within the pages of newspapers.

The Richmond Times Dispatch is just one example of a newspaper with articles on APIDAs. The Times Dispatch, formed in 1903 with the merger of the Times and the Dispatch, quickly emerged as Virginia’s primary newspaper of record. Its only significant competition in the capital city was the evening News Leader, which tended to focus on routine local issues rather than on statewide politics, business, and other in-depth news. The Times Dispatch was published from 1903 until 1914, when it became, officially, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the city’s current newspaper. During the first decade of the twentieth century, the Times Dispatch, a morning paper, was published in a large broadside format, usually measuring 17 by 23 inches with an average weekday issue of no more than 10 pages. Within the pages of the Times Dispatch in the early 1900s are mentions of a Japanese student, a Filippino woman, and a Chinese American boy; each one of these mentions leads to a curious and interesting story.

Sangi Ogawa

In 1904 and 1905, the Times Dispatch dedicated a few articles to a man named Sangi Ogawa. A “clever student” at Randolph-Macon, Ogawa had a strong impact on Ashland as evidenced by “the strong pro-Japanese feeling even in the small community.”[1] Ogawa, the “son of a Japanese gentleman of wealth and high standing,” came to Virginia to “secure educational equipment for the work of the christian ministry for his own people.” Ogawa’s interest in Christianity was initially piqued by his studies at the Palmore Institute in Kobe, Japan, and he eventually converted.[2] His father, who was Buddhist, disapproved of this, so Ogawa supported himself in America and at Randolph Macon by selling Bibles in parts of West Virginia and Maryland, chopping wood, and working as a janitor.[3] Ogawa was highly praised. In 1903, the Highland Recorder reported that he lectured at the Monterey Methodist Church one Sunday evening in front of “probably 300 persons,” and that “our people thought well of him and his undertaking was evidenced by the credible voluntary contribution raised to assist him in his further education.”[4]

However, Ogawa contracted typhoid fever while visiting and preaching in Mathews county.[5] He died at Dixie Hospital in Hampton, Virginia, at the age of 22.[6] His remains lingered in Richmond for at least a month, at the funeral parlor of Richardson and Chappel.[7]  While they waited to hear back from his family in Japan, “many of his friends, both in and out of the city have called to see his remains.”[8] Sadly, it was mentioned that upon hearing of his success in America as a student, his parents had “recently become reconciled, and were preparing to welcome his return next year.” Ogawa’s story does not end with his death–his ashes were sent to his family in Japan, yet were stolen in London.[10]

When this was relayed to Randolph-Macon faculty, it was met with “profound regret….as he was unanimously regarded as one of the most interesting and promising young men who has ever attended this college” and the idea of an endowment among friends of Ogawa was suggested.[11] In June 1905, Randolph-Macon unveiled a bronze tablet in the college chapel, dedicated to the memory of Sangi Ogawa.[12]

Conception Vasquez

In October 1905, the Times Dispatch pulled an intriguing story from The Associated Press (nestled on the bottom of page 4 next to a story titled, “She Accidentally Shot Her Sweetheart”), “The Filippino Woman Has Won Her Suit[13].” Even though the Times Dispatch often covered local news, it also covered national and international news–out of Leavenworth, Kansas, this article is on Filipino woman Conception Vasquez (her name is spelled Conception in both the Times Dispatch and Alexandria Gazette, but in the Evening News and the Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular and Volunteer Forces, her name is spelled Concepcion), who formally filed a claim against her husband for “abandonment and non support.”[14]

“Filipino Wife Gets Divorce”

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA), October 19, 1905

Vasquez was granted a separation (not a divorce) from First Lieutenant Sidney S. Burbank, and was given custody of their daughter and a $500/month alimony.[15] The story is also on the front page of the Alexandria Gazette, where it adds that it has “attracted much attention in the army,” and that Vasquez had brought action to the courts after “Lieutenant Burbank’s return to the U.S. and after his engagement had been announced to a prominent young Leavenworth woman.”[16] Per the Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of Regular and Volunteer Forces in 1906, Vasquez’s ex-husband, Burbank, ended up “serving a sentence in the Federal prison at Fort Leavenworth for embezzlement and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”[17]

Her case is fascinating, particularly when thinking of the agency of a person of color (POC) woman in 1905. These newspapers just begin to scratch the surface of this intriguing woman, who is certainly deserving of further research and attention.

Charles Sing

``Richmond-Born Chinaman is Denied Re-Admission``

Times Dispatch, 24 September 1908, Page 10.

Another article in the Times Dispatch from September 1908 focuses on Richmonder Charles Sing, supposedly the “City’s First Chinese Baby,” and the efforts made by Charles’s parents to prove that he was American born.[18] This would have been during the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act, enacted in 1882, which dictated that Chinese laborers were not permitted to enter the United States. Certificates were required of Chinese laborers already in the United States and this was later extended to all Chinese immigrants in 1893. Those who were from China were barred citizenship and the Chinese Exclusion Act was not repealed until 1943. 

Within this context, Mr. John C. Williams, “Chinese inspector of the port of Norfolk,” spent “yesterday ransacking the Chinese section of Richmond for evidence as to the birth of Charles William Sing, his efforts late last night resulting in producing a number of persons, both Chinese and American, who remembered well the interest in Richmond at the birth of the child said to be the first full-blooded Celestial born in Richmond.”[19]

Not only was Charles Sing Chinese American, but he was a second generation Chinese American–it was noted his mother was “a Chinese woman, was also a native American, having been born in San Francisco.”[20] The article states that Charles Sing’s father, Woo Sing, had taken a trip to China “after a long residence in Richmond, during which two children were born, and anticipating that his son would one day wish to claim his American citizenship as a native born Virginian.” Woo put on record a statement in front of a notary and clerk that he was “of the Chinese race, and… am prevented from becoming a citizen of the United States. I came to this country in 1875, when a boy nine years of age, and located in Richmond in 1894, where I have ever since been engaged in the public business of a laundryman.”

APIDA Voices

Newspapers from the past can give a glimpse into how the lives of APIDAs may have been like or how their neighbors may have perceived them, but often historical articles are written about APIDAs, not by them, and are typically missing their own writings or recollections. Newspapers from more recently do capture the voices of APIDAs themselves. High school newspaper The Jaguar Journal (1948-1996), later called the Jagwire (1997-present), published by Falls Church High School in Falls Church, featured a short article in 2017 of how “New Year’s Day Isn’t Always January 1st.” About a hundred years after the Times Dispatch articles on APIDAs, the Jagwire featured two APIDA students’ input on how their cultures have celebrated New Year’s Day. For example, the article includes Hamza Arshed’s remarks about New Years in Pakistan, where he states that the day, “was not celebrated as extensively as in the United States, but there are still family get-togethers to celebrate the New Year.” 

“New Year’s Day Isn’t Always January 1st”

Jagwire (Falls Church, VA), January 2017

Staff writer Noah Sedmark adds that, “Pakistan’s New Year’s traditions are religious, and have special prayers and religious congregations,” and that because of the Islamic calendar, “the New Year starts on a different date than Western calendar.” The article also features the thoughts on Vietnamese New Year by student Vi Phan, who adds that, “Vietnamese New Year is actually celebrated with the Chinese New Year. In my family, this is a time where we have a big family meeting. I visit both my Mom and Dad’s side of the family. We eat and play card games.” Sedmark adds further contextual information on Vietnamese New Year, called Te’t Nguyen Dan (or Te’t), which “literally translates to ‘The Feast of the First Morning of the First Day.”[21] 

The Times Dispatch and Jagwire are just two of many newspaper publications where one can begin to find APIDAs in history. Newspapers are an excellent resource and can often be a starting point for APIDA research. It is important to keep in mind that although Virginia Chronicle has many, many digitized pages, not everything is online and may require that you take a trip to see these broadsides in-person. You never know what stories you will find!

-Emma Ito, Education & Programs Specialist


[1] “Ashland is for Japan,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), February 18, 1904, accessed May 13, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——–.

[2]  “Sangi Ogawa’s Ashes Stolen,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), April 23, 1905, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-sangi+ogawa——-;
“Sangi Ogawa,” Highland Recorder (Monteray, VA), August 7, 1903, accessed May 15, 2020,

[3] “Sangi Ogawa,” Highland Recorder (Monteray, VA), August 7, 1903, accessed May 15, 2020,

[4] Highland Recorder (Monterey, VA), August 14, 1903, accessed May 15, 2020,

[5]“News Items,” Virginia Citizen (Irvington,VA), September 2, 1904, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-Sangi+Ogawa——-

[6]“Sangi Ogawa,” Highland Recorder (Monteray, VA), August 7, 1903, accessed May 15, 2020,
“Student Sangi Ogawa Dead,” Recorder (Monterey, VA), August 25, 1944 (News of 40 Yrs. Ago From Highland Recorder, Issue of August 26, 1904), accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-Sangi+Ogawa——-

[7] “Student’s Body Still Here,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), September 25, 1904, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-sangi+ogawa——-.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “News Items,” Virginia Citizen ( ,VA), September 2, 1904, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-Sangi+Ogawa——-
“Sorrow at School,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), August 30, 1904, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-sangi+ogawa——-

[10] “Sangi Ogawa’s Ashes Stolen,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), April 23, 1905, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-sangi+ogawa——-.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Alumni Day at Randolph-Macon,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), June 8, 1905, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-sangi+ogawa——-.

[13] “The Filippino Woman Has Won Her Suit,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), October 20, 1905, accessed May 13, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——–.

[14] “A Mild Sensation,” Evening News (Roanoke, VA), February 13, 1907, accessed May 14, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22Filipino+wife%22——-.

[15] The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular and Volunteer Forces, Volume 43 (Madison, Wisconsin), May 26, 1908, accessed May 13, 2020
“A Mild Sensation,” Evening News (Roanoke, VA), February 13, 1907, accessed May 14, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22Filipino+wife%22——-..

[16]“Filipino Wife Gets Divorce,” Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA), October 19, 1905, accessed May 13, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——–.

[17] The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular and Volunteer Forces, Volume 43 (Madison, Wisconsin), May 26, 1908, accessed May 13, 2020

[18]“Richmond-Born Chinaman is Denied Re-Admission,” Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), September 24, 1908, accessed May 13, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——–.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21]“New Year’s Day Isn’t Always January 1st,” Jagwire (Falls Church, VA), January 2017, accessed May 15, 2020,——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——–.

Emma Ito

Former Education & Programs Specialist

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