He Lived Out Titanic Scene. What Came Next Wasn't Easier

Documentary tells of discrimination against Chinese survivors including Fang Lang
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2021 1:46 PM CDT

You'll recall that famous scene in Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack, clinging to a wooden door in the frigid ocean, lets go. His companion, Kate Winslet's Rose, eventually gets the attention of rescuers in the lone lifeboat that had returned to the scene to search for survivors. The true story, however, happened differently. A single lifeboat was searching for survivors of the April 1912 disaster when it came upon a man holding tight to a wooden door, "shivering but still alive," per the BBC. It was Fang Lang, one of six Chinese survivors of the sinking. Unfortunately, those survivors were in for more hardship, as told in new documentary The Six. Within a day of arriving at New York's Ellis Island, Lang, Lee Bing, Chang Chip, Ah Lam, Chung Foo and Ling Hee were expelled from the US under the Chinese Exclusion Act, which blocked Chinese immigration.

Amid anti-Chinese sentiment, media outlets suggested the six had disguised themselves as women to get in lifeboats, or had hidden under seats. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle referred to them as "creatures" who'd concealed themselves "at the first sign of danger." But British director Arthur Jones found no evidence of this, with his team even constructing a replica of the lifeboat to establish that it wasn't possible to hide unseen on it. The men, thought to be professional sailors seeking work in the Caribbean, were sent to Cuba, then made their way to the UK, where discrimination reared its ugly head again. Fang eventually became a US citizen but never told his wife and son he'd been on the Titanic, something his son attributes to trauma and stigma. The BBC notes the film—debuting Friday in China, per NBC News—"has taken on particular resonance today following recent anti-Asian abuse in the US." (More Titanic stories.)

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